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J. J. McKnight 


The Five-Foot Shelf of Books 


The Voyage of 
the Beagle 

By Charles Darwin 

W/VA Introduction and Notes 
Volume 29 

P. F. Collier & Son Corporation 


Copyright, 1909 


.* 22 1953 



Porto Praya Ribeira Grande Atmospheric Dust with Infusoria Habits of a 
Sea-slug and Cuttle-fish St. Paul's Rocks, non-volcanic Singular Incrus- 
tations Insects the first Colonists of Islands Fernando Noronha Bahia 
Burnished Rocks Habits of a Diodon Pelagic Confervas and Infusoria 
Causes of discoloured Sea II 


Rio de Janeiro Excursion north of Cape Frio Great Evaporation Slavery 
Botofogo Bay Terrestrial Planariz Clouds on the Corcovado Heavy 
Rain Musical Frogs Phosphorescent Insects Elater, springing powers 
of Blue Haze Noise made by a Butterfly Entomology Ants Wasp 
killing a Spider Parasitical Spider Artifices of an Epeira Gregarious 
Spider Spider with an unsymmetrical Web 28 


Monte Video Maldonado Excursion to R. Polanco Lazo and Bolas Par- 
tridges Absence of Trees Deer Capybara, or River Hog Tucutuco 
Molothrus, cuckoo-like habits Tyrant-flycatcher Mocking-bird Carrion 
Hawks Tubes formed by Lightning House struck 48 


Rio Negro Estancias attacked by the Indians Salt Lakes Flamingoes R. 
Negro to R. Colorado Sacred Tree Patagonian Hare Indian Families 
General Rosas Proceed to Bahia Blanca Sand Dunes Negro Lieutenant 
Bahia Blanca Saline Incrustations Punta Alta Zorillo .... 70 


Bahia Blanca Geology Numerous gigantic extinct Quadrupeds Recent Ex- 
tinction Longevity of Species Large Animals do not require a luxuriant 
vegetation Southern Africa Siberian Fossils Two Species of Ostrich 
Habits of Oven-bird Armadilloes Venomous Snake, Toad, Lizard 
Hybernation of Animals Habits of Sea-Pen Indian Wars and Massacres 
Arrow-head, antiquarian Relic 88 


Set out for Buenos Ayres Rio Sauce Sierra Ventana Third Posta Driving 
Horses Bolas Partridges and Foxes Features of the Country Long- 
legged Plover Teru-tero Hail-storm Natural Enclosures in the Sierra 
Tapalguen Flesh of Puma Meat Diet Guardia del Monte Effects of 
Cattle on the Vegetation Cardoon Buenos Ayres Corral where Cattle 
are slaughtered 112 



Excursion to St. Fe" Thistle-Beds Habits of the Bizcacha Little Owl Saline 
Streams Level Plains Mastodon St. Fe Change in Landscape Geol- 
ogy Tooth of extinct Horse Relation of the Fossil and Recent Quad- 
rupeds of North and South America Effects of a great Drought Parana 
Habits of the Jaguar Scissor-beak Kingfisher, Parrot, and Scissor-tail 
Revolution Buenos Ayres State of Government 128 


Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento Value of an Estancia Cattle, how 
counted Singular Breed 6f Oxen Perforated Pebbles Shepherd Dogs 
Horses broken-in, Gauchos riding Character of Inhabitants Rio Plata 
Flocks of Butterflies Aeronaut Spiders Phosphorescence of the Sea 
Port Desire Guanaco Port St. Julian Geology of Patagonia Fossil 
gigantic Animal Types of Organization constant Change in the Zoology 
of America Causes of Extinction 147 


Santa Cruz Expedition up the River Indians Immense Streams of Basaltic 
Lava Fragments not transported by the River Excavation of the Valley 
Condor, habits of Cordillera Erratic Boulders of great size Indian 
Relics Return to the Ship Falkland Islands Wild Horses, Cattle, 
Rabbits Wolf-like Fox Fire made of Bones Manner of hunting Wild 
Cattle Geology Streams of Stones Scenes of Violence Penguin 
Geese Eggs of Doris Compound Animals 182 


Tierra del Fuego, first arrival Good Success Bay An Account of the Fuegians 
on board Interview with the Savages Scenery of the Forests Cape 
Horn Wigwam Cove Miserable Condition of the Savages Famines 
Cannibals Matricide Religious Feelings Great Gale Beagle Channel 
Ponsonby Sound Build Wigwams and settle the Fuegians Bifurcation 
of the Beagle Channel Glaciers Return to the Ship Second Visit in 
the Ship to the Settlement Equality of Condition amongst the Natives . 209 


Strait of Magellan Port Famine Ascent of Mount Tarn Forests Edible 
Fungus Zoology Great Sea-weed Leave Tierra del Fuego Climate 
Fruit-trees and Productions of the Southern Coasts Height of Snow-line 
on the Cordillera Descent of Glaciers to the Sea Icebergs formed 
Transportal of Boulders Climate and Productions of the Antarctic Islands 
Preservation of Frozen Carcasses Recapitulation 236 


Valparaiso Excursion to the Foot of the Andes Structure of the Land Ascend 
the Bell of Quillota Shattered Masses of Greenstone Immense Valleys 
Mines State of Miners Santiago Hot-baths of Cauquenes Gold-mines 
Grinding-Mills Perforated Stones Habits of the Puma El Turco and 
Tapacolo Humming-birds 257 




Chiloe General Aspect Boat Excursion Native Indians Castro Tame Fox 
Ascend San Pedro Chonos Archipelago Peninsula of Tres Montes 
Granitic Range Boat-wrecked Sailors Low's Harbour Wild Potato 
Formation of Peat Myopotamus, Otter and Mice Cheucau and Barking- 
bird Opetiorhynchus Singular Character of Ornithology Petrels . . 277 


San Carlos, Chiloe Osorno in Eruption, contemporaneously with Aconcagua 
and Coseguina Ride to Cucao Impenetrable Forests Valdivia Indians 
Earthquake Concepcion Great Earthquake Rocks fissured Appear- 
ance of the former Towns The Sea Black and Boiling Direction of the 
Vibrations Stones twisted round Great Wave Permanent Elevation of 
the Land Area of Volcanic Phenomena The connection between the 
Elevatory and Eruptive Forces Causes of Earthquakes Slow Elevation 
of Mountain-chains 295 


Valparaiso Portillo Pass Sagacity of Mules Mountain-torrents Mines, how 
discovered Proofs of the gradual Elevation of the Cordillera Effect of 
Snow on Rocks Geological Structure of the two main Ranges Their 
distinct Origin and Upheaval Great subsidence Red Snow Winds 
Pinnacles of Snow Dry and clear Atmosphere Electricity Pampas 
Zoology of the opposite Sides of the Andes Locusts Great Bugs 
Mendoza Uspallata Pass Silicified trees buried as they grew Incas 
Bridge Badness of the Passes exaggerated Cumbre Casuchas 
Valparaiso ,j~ 


Coast-road to Coquimbo Great Loads carried by the Miners Coquimbo 
Earthquake Step-formed Terraces Absence of recent Deposits Con- 
temporaneousness of the Tertiary Formations Excursion up the Valley 

Road to Guasco Deserts Valley of Copiapo Rain and Earthquakes 
Hydrophobia The Despoblado Indian Ruins Probable change of 
Climate River-bed arched by an Earthquake Cold Gales of Wind- 
Noises from a Hill Iquique Salt Alluvium Nitrate of Soda Lima 

Unhealthy Country Ruins of Callao, overthrown by an Earthquake 

Recent subsidence Elevated Shells on San Lorenzo, their decomposition 
Plain with embedded Shells and fragments of Pottery Antiquity of 
the Indian Race . . 341 


Galapagos Archipelago The whole Group Volcanic Number of Craters- 
Leafless Bushes Colony at Charles Island James Island Salt-lake in 
Crater Natural History of the Group Ornithology, curious Finches- 
Reptiles Great Tortoises, habits of Marine Lizard, feeds on Sea-weed 
-Terrestrial Lizard, burrowing habits, herbivorous Importance of 
Reptiles in the Archipelago Fish, Shells, Insects Botany American 
Type of Organization Differences in the Species or Races on different 
Islands Tameness of the Birds Fear of Man, an acquired Instinct . . 376 



Pass through the Low Archipelago Tahiti Aspect Vegetation on the Moun- 
tains View of Eimeo Excursion into the Interior Profound Ravines 
Succession of Waterfalls Number of wild useful Plants Temperance of 
the Inhabitants Their moral state Parliament convened New Zealand 
Bay of Islands Hippahs Excursion to Waimate Missionary Establish- 
ment English Weeds now run wild Waiomio Funeral of a New 
Zealand Woman Sail for Australia 406 


Sydney Excursion to Bathurst Aspect of the Woods Party of Natives 
Gradual extinction of the Aborigines Infection generated by associated 
Men in health Blue Mountains View of the grand gulf-like Valleys 
Their origin and formation Bathurst, general civility of the Lower Orders 
State of Society Van Diemen's Land Hobart Town Aborigines all 
banished Mount Wellington King George's Sound Cheerless Aspect 
of the Country Bald Head, calcareous casts of branches of Trees Party 
of Natives Leave Australia 435 


Keeling Island Singular appearance Scanty Flora Transport of Seeds Birds 
and Insects Ebbing and flowing Springs Fields of dead Coral Stone 
transported in the roots of Trees Great Crab Stinging Corals Coral- 
eating Fish Coral Formations Lagoon Islands, or Atolls Depth at 
which reef-building Corals can live Vast Areas interspersed with low 
Coral Islands Subsidence of their foundations Barrier Reefs Fringing 
Reefs Conversion of Fringing Reefs into Barrier Reefs, and into Atolls 
Evidence of changes in Level Breaches in Barrier Reefs Maldiva 
Atolls; their peculiar structure Dead and submerged Reefs Areas of 
subsidence and elevation Distribution of Volcanoes Subsidence slow, 
and vast in amount 456 


Mauritius, beautiful appearance of Great crateriform ring of Mountains 
Hindoos St. Helena History of the changes in the Vegetation Cause 
of the extinction of Land-shells Ascension Variation in the imported 
Rats Volcanic Bombs Beds of Infusoria Bahia Brazil Splendour of 
Tropical Scenery Pernambuco Singular Reef Slavery Return to Eng- 
land Retrospect on our Voyage 486 



A SKETCH of Darwin's life and some indication of the importance of 
his work have been given in the edition of "The Origin of Species" 
published in the Harvard Classics. 

The text of the present volume shows without further comment the 
nature of Darwin's labors and their results on this momentous voyage. 
A few sentences gathered from his autobiography will, however, throw 
some additional light upon the more personal aspects of the expedition. 

"The Voyage of the 'Beagle' has been by far the most important event 
in my life, and has determined my whole career. ... I have always felt 
that I owe to the voyage the first real training or education of my mind; 
I was led to attend closely to several branches of natural history, and thus 
my powers of observation were improved, though they were always 
fairly developed. . . ." 

"The above various special studies were, however, of no importance 
compared with the habit of energetic industry and of concentrated atten- 
tion to whatever I was engaged in, which I then acquired. Everything 
about which I thought or read was made to bear directly on what I had 
seen or was likely to see; and this habit of mind was continued during 
the five years of the voyage. I feel sure that it was this training which 
has enabled me to do whatever I have done in science." 

"Looking backwards, I can now perceive how my love for science 
gradually preponderated over every other taste. During the first two 
years my old passion for shooting survived in nearly full force, and I shot, 
myself, all the birds and animals for my collection; but gradually I gave 
up my gun more and more, and finally altogether, to my servant, as 
shooting interfered with my work, more especially with making out the 
geological structure of a country. I discovered, though unconsciously 
and insensibly, that the pleasure of observing and reasoning was a much 
higher one than that of skill and sport. . . ." 

"As far as I can judge of myself, I worked to the utmost during the 
voyage from the mere pleasure of investigation, and from my strong 
desire to add a few facts to the great mass of facts in Natural Science. 
But I was also ambitious to take a fair place among scientific men, 
whether more ambitious or less so than most of my fellow-workers, I can 
form no opinion." (Life and Letters, I. pp. 61-65.) 

Even if the Journal of the voyage were not one of the most interesting 
and informing of books, this statement by its author of the importance 


of the expedition in making possible his later epoch-making generaliza- 
tions would give it a distinctive place in the literature of science. But 
its amazing wealth of information and its unconsciously painted picture 
of disinterested zeal in the search for scientific truth have made it for 
intrinsic reasons a classic in its kind. 





I HAVE stated in the preface to the first Edition of this work, and in 
the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, that it was in consequence of a 
wish expressed by Captain Fitz Roy, of having some scientific person on 
board, accompanied by an offer from him of giving up part of his own 
accommodations, that I volunteered my services, which received, through 
the kindness of the hydrographer, Captain Beaufort, the sanction of the 
Lords of the Admiralty. As I feel that the opportunities which I enjoyed 
of studying the Natural History of the different countries we visited, 
have been wholly due to Captain Fitz Roy, I hope I may here be per- 
mitted to repeat my expression of gratitude to him; and to add that, 
during the five years we were together, I received from him the most 
cordial friendship and steady assistance. Both to Captain Fitz Roy and 
to all the Officers of the Beagle 1 I shall ever feel most thankful for the 
undeviating kindness with which I was treated during our long voyage. 

This volume contains, in the form of a Journal, a history of our voyage, 
and a sketch of those observations in Natural History and Geology, which 
I think will possess some interest for the general reader. I have in this 
edition largely condensed and corrected some parts, and have added a 
little to others, in order to render the volume more fitted for popular 
reading; but I trust that naturalists will remember, that they must refer 
for details to the larger publications which comprise the scientific results 
of the Expedition. The Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle includes an 
account of the Fossil Mammalia, by Professor Owen; of the Living 
Mammalia, by Mr. Waterhouse; of the Birds, by Mr. Gould; of the Fish, 
by the Rev. L. Jenyns; and of the Reptiles, by Mr. Bell. I have appended 
to the descriptions of each species an account of its habits and range. 
These works, which I owe to the high talents and disinterested zeal of 
the above distinguished authors, could not have been undertaken, had it 
not been for the liberality of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's 
Treasury, who, through the representation of the Right Honourable the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, have been pleased to grant a sum of one 
thousand pounds towards defraying part of the expenses of publication. 

I have myself published separate volumes on the 'Structure and Distri- 

I I must take this opportunity of returning my sincere thanks to Mr. Bynoe, the 
surgeon of the Beagle, for his very kind attention to me when I was ill at Valparaiso. 


bution of Coral Reefs;' on the 'Volcanic Islands visited during the Voyage 
of the Beagle;' and on the 'Geology of South America.' The sixth volume 
of the 'Geological Transactions' contains two papers of mine on the 
Erratic Boulders and Volcanic Phenomena of South America. Messrs. 
Waterhouse, Walker, Newman, and White, have published several able 
papers on the Insects which were collected, and I trust that many others 
will hereafter follow. The plants from the southern parts of America 
will be given by Dr. J. Hooker, in his great work on the Botany of the 
Southern Hemisphere. The Flora of the Galapagos Archipelago is the 
subject of a separate memoir by him, in the 'Linnean Transactions.' The 
Reverend Professor Henslow has published a list of the plants collected 
by me at the Keeling Islands; and the Reverend }. M. Berkeley has 
described jny cryptogamic plants. 

I shall have the pleasure of acknowledging the great assistance which 
I have received from several other naturalists, in the course of this and 
my other works; but I must be here allowed to return my most sincere 
thanks to the Reverend Professor Henslow, who, when I was an under- 
graduate at Cambridge, was one chief means of giving me a taste for 
Natural History, who, during my absence, took charge of the collections 
I sent home, and by his correspondence directed my endeavours, and 
who, since my return, has constantly rendered me every assistance which 
the kindest friend could offer. 

June, 1845. 



Porto Praya Ribeira Grande Atmospheric Dust with Infusoria 
Habits of a Sea-slug and Cuttle-fish St. Paul's Rocks, non-volcanic 
Singular Incrustations Insects the first Colonists of Islands Fernando 
Noronha Bahia Burnished Rocks Habits of a Diodon Pelagic 
Confervae and Infusoria Causes of discoloured Sea. 

ATER having been twice driven back by heavy southwestern 
gales, Her Majesty's ship Beagle, a ten-gun brig, under the 
command of Captain Fitz Roy, R. N., sailed from Devon- 
port on the 27th of December, 1831. The object of the expedition 
was to complete the survey of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, com- 
menced under Captain King in 1826 to 1830 to survey the shores 
of Chile, Peru, and of some islands in the Pacific and to carry a 
chain of chronometrical measurements round the World. On the 
6th of January we reached Teneriffe, but were prevented landing, by 
fears of our bringing the cholera : the next morning we saw the sun 
rise behind the rugged outline of the Grand Canary island, and 
suddenly illuminate the Peak of Teneriffe, whilst the lower parts 
were veiled in fleecy clouds. This was the first of many delightful 
days never to be forgotten. On the i6th of January, 1832, we anchored 
at Porto Praya, in St. Jago, the chief island of the Cape de Verd 

The neighbourhood of Porto Praya, viewed from the sea, wears a 
desolate aspect. The volcanic fires of a past age, and the scorching 
heat of a tropical sun, have in most places rendered the soil unfit for 
vegetation. The country rises in successive steps of table-land, inter- 
spersed with some truncate conical hills, and the horizon is bounded 
by an irregular chain of more lofty mountains. The scene, as beheld 
through the hazy atmosphere of this climate, is one of great interest; 
if, indeed, a person, fresh from sea, and who has just walked, for the 



first time, in a grove of cocoa-nut trees, can be a judge of anything 
but his own happiness. The island would generally be considered 
as very uninteresting; but to anyone accustomed only to an English 
landscape, the novel aspect of an utterly sterile land possesses a 
grandeur which more vegetation might spoil. A single green leaf 
can scarcely be discovered over wide tracts of the lava plains; yet 
flocks of goats, together with a few cows, contrive to exist. It rains 
very seldom, but during a short portion of the year heavy torrents 
fall, and immediately afterwards a light vegetation springs out of 
every crevice. This soon withers; and upon such naturally formed 
hay the animals live. It had not now rained for an entire year. When 
the island was discovered, the immediate neighbourhood of Porto 
Praya was clothed with trees, 1 the reckless destruction of which has 
caused here, as at St. Helena, and at some of the Canary islands, 
almost entire sterility. The broad, flat-bottomed valleys, many of 
which serve during a few days only in the season as water-courses, are 
clothed with thickets of leafless bushes. Few living creatures inhabit 
these valleys. The commonest bird is a kingfisher (Dacelo lago- 
ensis), which tamely sits on the branches of the castor-oil plant, and 
thence darts on grasshoppers and lizards. It is brightly coloured, but 
not so beautiful as the European species: in its flight, manners, and 
place of habitation, which is generally in the driest valley, there is 
also a wide difference. 

One day, two of the officers and myself rode to Ribeira Grande, 
a village a few miles eastward of Porto Praya. Until we reached the 
valley of St. Martin, the country presented its usual dull brown 
appearance; but here, a very small rill of water produces a most 
refreshing margin of luxuriant vegetation. In the course of an hour 
we arrived at Ribeira Grande, and were surprised at the sight of a 
large ruined fort and cathedral. This little town, before its harbour 
was filled up, was the principal place in the island: it now presents 
a melancholy, but very picturesque appearance. Having procured a 
black Padre for a guide, and a Spaniard who had served in the 
Peninsular war as an interpreter, we visited a collection of buildings, 
of which an ancient church formed the principal part. It is here the 

J I state this on the authority of Dr. E. Dieffenbach, in his German translation of 
the first edition of this Journal. 


governors and captain-generals of the islands have been buried. 
Some of the tombstones recorded dates of the sixteenth century. 2 
The heraldic ornaments were the only things in this retired place 
that reminded us of Europe. The church or chapel formed one side 
of a quadrangle, in the middle of which a large clump of bananas 
were growing. On another side was a hospital, containing about a 
dozen miserable-looking inmates. 

We returned to the Venda to eat our dinners. A considerable 
number of men, women, and children, all as black as jet, collected 
to watch us. Our companions were extremely merry; and every- 
thing we said or did was followed by their hearty laughter. Before 
leaving the town we visited the cathedral. It does not appear so 
rich as the smaller church, but boasts of a little organ, which sent 
forth singularly inharmonious cries. We presented the black priest 
with a few shillings, and the Spaniard, patting him on the head, 
said, with much candour, he thought his colour made no great 
difference. We then returned, as fast as the ponies would go, to 
Porto Praya. 

Another day we rode to the village of St. Domingo, situated near 
the centre of the island. On a small plain which we crossed, a few 
stunted acacias were growing; their tops had been bent by the 
steady trade-wind, in a singular manner some of them even at 
right angles to their trunks. The direction of the branches was 
exactly N. E. by N., and S. W. by S., and these natural vanes must 
indicate the prevailing direction of the force of the trade-wind. The 
travelling had made so little impression on the barren soil, that we 
here missed our track, and took that to Fuentes. This we did not 
find out till we arrived there; and we were afterwards glad of our 
mistake. Fuentes is a pretty village, with a small stream; and every- 
thing appeared to prosper well, excepting, indeed, that which ought 
to do so most its inhabitants. The black children, completely naked, 
and looking very wretched, were carrying bundles of firewood half 
as big as their own bodies. 

Near Fuentes we saw a large flock of guinea-fowl probably fifty 
or sixty in number. They were extremely wary, and could not be 

2 The Cape de Verd Islands were discovered in 1449. There was a tombstone of 
a bishop with the date of 1571; and a crest of a hand and dagger, dated 1497. 


approached. They avoided us, like partridges on a rainy day in 
September, running with their heads cocked up; and if pursued, 
they readily took to the wing. 

The scenery of St. Domingo possesses a beauty totally unexpected, 
from the prevalent gloomy character of the rest of the island. The 
village is situated at the bottom of a valley, bounded by lofty and 
jagged walls of stratified lava. The black rocks afford a most strik- 
ing contrast with the bright green vegetation, which follows the 
banks of a little stream of clear water. It happened to be a grand 
feast-day, and the village was full of people. On our return we over- 
took a party of about twenty young black girls, dressed in excellent 
taste; their black skins and snow-white linen being set off by coloured 
turbans and large shawls. As soon as we approached near, they 
suddenly all turned round, and covering the path with their shawls, 
sung with great energy a wild song, beating time with their hands 
upon their legs. We threw them some vintems, which were received 
with screams of laughter, and we left them redoubling the noise 
of their song. 

One morning the view was singularly clear; the distant mountains 
being projected with the sharpest outline on a heavy bank of dark 
blue clouds. Judging from the appearance, and from similar cases 
in England, I supposed that the air was saturated with moisture. 
The fact, however, turned out quite the contrary. The hygrometer 
gave a difference of 29.6 degrees, between the temperature of the 
air, and the point at which dew was precipitated. This difference 
was nearly double that which I had observed on the previous morn- 
ings. This unusual degree of atmospheric dryness was accompanied 
by continual flashes of lightning. Is it not an uncommon case, thus 
to find a remarkable degree of aerial transparency with such a state 
of weather ? 

Generally the atmosphere is hazy; and this is caused by the falling 
of impalpably fine dust, which was found to have slightly injured 
the astronomical instruments. The morning before we anchored at 
Porto Praya, I collected a little packet of this brown-coloured fine 
dust, which appeared to have been filtered from the wind by the 
gauze of the vane at the masthead. Mr. Lyell has also given me four 
packets of dust which fell on a vessel a few hundred miles north- 


ward of these islands. Professor Ehrenberg 3 finds that this dust con- 
sists in great part of infusoria with siliceous shields, and of the 
siliceous tissue of plants. In five little packets which I sent him, he 
has ascertained no less than sixty-seven different organic forms! The 
infusoria, with the exception of two marine species, are all inhabit- 
ants of fresh-water. I have found no less than fifteen different 
accounts of dust having fallen on vessels when far out in the Atlantic. 
From the direction of the wind whenever it has fallen, and from its 
having always fallen during those months when the harmattan is 
known to raise clouds of dust high into the atmosphere, we may 
feel sure that it all comes from Africa. It is, however, a very singular 
fact, that, although Professor Ehrenberg knows many species of 
infusoria peculiar to Africa, he finds none of these in the dust which 
I sent him. On the other hand, he finds in it two species which 
hitherto he knows as living only in South America. The dust falls 
in such quantities as to dirty everything on board, and to hurt 
people's eyes; vessels even have run on shore owing to the obscurity 
of the atmosphere. It has often fallen on ships when several hundred, 
and even more than a thousand miles from the coast of Africa, and 
at points sixteen hundred miles distant in a north and south direction. 
In some dust which was collected on a vessel three hundred miles 
from the land, I was much surprised to find particles of stone above 
the thousandth of an inch square, mixed with finer matter. After 
this fact one need not be surprised at the diffusion of the far lighter 
and smaller sporules of cryptogamic plants. 

The geology of this island is the most interesting part of its 
natural history. On entering the harbour, a perfectly horizontal 
white band, in the face of the sea cliff, may be seen running for some 
miles along the coast, and at the height of about forty-five feet above 
the water. Upon examination, this white stratum is found to consist 
of calcareous matter, with numerous shells embedded, most or all of 
which now exist on the neighbouring coast. It rests on ancient vol- 
canic rocks, and has been covered by a stream of basalt, which must 
have entered the sea when the white shelly bed was lying at the 
bottom. It is interesting to trace the changes, produced by the heat 

3 1 must take this opportunity of acknowledging the great kindness with which this 
illustrious naturalist has examined many of my specimens. I have sent (June, 1845) 
a full account of the falling of this dust to the Geological Society. 


of the overlying lava, on the friable mass, which in parts has been 
converted into a crystalline limestone, and in other parts into a 
compact spotted stone. Where the lime has been caught up by the 
scoriaceous fragments of the lower surface of the stream, it is con- 
verted into groups of beautifully radiated fibres resembling arrago- 
nite. The beds of lava rise in successive gently-sloping plains, towards 
the interior, whence the deluges of melted stone have originally 
proceeded. Within historical times, no signs of volcanic activity 
have, I believe, been manifested in any part of St. Jago. Even the 
form of a crater can but rarely be discovered on the summits of the 
many red cindery hills; yet the more recent streams can be distin- 
guished on the coast, forming lines of cliffs of less height, but stretch- 
ing out in advance of those belonging to an older series: the height 
of the clifTs thus affording a rude measure of the age of the streams. 

During our stay, I observed the habits of some marine animals. 
A large Aplysia is very common. This sea-slug is about five inches 
long; and is of a dirty yellowish colour, veined with purple. On each 
side of the lower surface, or foot, there is a broad membrane, which 
appears sometimes to act as a ventilator, in causing a current of 
water to flow over the dorsal branchiae or lungs. It feeds on the 
delicate sea-weeds which grow among the stones in muddy and 
shallow water; and I found in its stomach several small pebbles, 
as in the gizzard of a bird. This slug, when disturbed, emits a 
very fine purplish-red fluid, which stains the water for the space of 
a foot around. Besides this means of defense, an acrid secretion, 
which is spread over its body, causes a sharp, stinging sensation, 
similar to that produced by the Physalia, or Portuguese man-of-war. 

I was much interested, on several occasions, by watching the 
habits of an Octopus, or cuttle-fish. Although common in the pools 
of water left by the retiring tide, these animals were not easily 
caught. By means of their long arms and suckers, they could drag 
their bodies into very narrow crevices; and when thus fixed, it 
required great force to remove them. At other times they darted 
tail first, with the rapidity of an arrow, from one side of the pool 
to the other, at the same instant discolouring the water with a dark 
chestnut-brown ink. These animals also escape detection by a very 


extraordinary, chameleon-like power of changing their colour. They 
appear to vary their tints according to the nature of the ground over 
which they pass: when in deep water, their general shade was 
brownish purple, but when placed on the land, or in shallow water, 
this dark tint changed into one of a yellowish green. The colour, 
examined more carefully, was a French grey, with numerous minute 
spots of bright yellow: the former of these varied in intensity; the 
latter entirely disappeared and appeared again by turns. These 
changes were effected in such a manner, that clouds, varying in 
tint between a hyacinth red and a chestnut-brown, 4 were continually 
passing over the body. Any part, being subjected to a slight shock of 
galvanism, became almost black : a similar effect, but in a less degree, 
was produced by scratching the skin with a needle. These clouds, 
or blushes as they may be called, are said to be produced by the alter- 
nate expansion and contraction of minute vesicles containing vari- 
ously coloured fluids. 5 

This cuttle-fish displayed its chameleon-like power both during 
the act of swimming and whilst remaining stationary at the bottom. 
I was much amused by the various arts to escape detection used by 
one individual, which seemed fully aware that I was watching it. 
Remaining for a time motionless, it would then stealthily advance 
an inch or two, like a cat after a mouse; sometimes changing its 
colour: it thus proceeded, till having gained a deeper part, it darted 
away, leaving a dusky train of ink to hide the hole into which it 
had crawled. 

While looking for marine animals, with my head about two feet 
above the rocky shore, I was more than once saluted by a jet of 
water, accompanied by a slight grating noise. At first I could not 
think what it was, but afterwards I found out that it was this cuttle- 
fish, which, though concealed in a hole, thus often led me to its 
discovery. That it possesses the power of ejecting water there is no 
doubt, and it appeared to me that it could certainly take good aim 
by directing the tube or siphon on the under side of its body. From 
the difficulty which these animals have in carrying their heads, they 

4 So named according to Patrick Symes's nomenclature. 

5 See Encyclop. of Anat. and Physiol., article Cephalopoda. 


cannot crawl with ease when placed on the ground. I observed that 
one which I kept in the cabin was slightly phosphorescent in the 

ST. PAUL'S ROCKS. In crossing the Atlantic we hove-to, during the 
morning of February i6th, close to the island of St. Paul's. This 
cluster of rocks is situated in o 58' north latitude, and 29 15' west 
longitude. It is 540 miles distant from the coast of America, and 

350 from the island of Fernando Noronha. The highest point is 
only fifty feet above the level of the sea, and the entire circumference 
is under three-quarters of a mile. This small point rises abruptly 
out of the depths of the ocean. Its mineralogical constitution is not 
simple; in some parts the rock is of a cherty, in others of a felspathic 
nature, including thin veins of serpentine. It is a remarkable fact, 
that all the many small islands, lying far from any continent, in the 
Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans, with the exception of the 
Seychelles and this little point of rock, are, I believe, composed either 
of coral or of erupted matter. The volcanic nature of these oceanic 
islands is evidently an extension of that law, and the effect of those 
same causes, whether chemical or mechanical, from which it results 
that a vast majority of the volcanoes now in action stand either near 
sea-coasts or as islands in the midst of the sea. 

The rocks of St. Paul appear from a distance of a brilliantly white 
colour. This is partly owing to the dung of a vast multitude of sea- 
fowl, and partly to a coating of a hard glossy substance with a pearly 


lustre, which is intimately united to the surface of the rocks. This, 
when examined with a lens, is found to consist of numerous exceed- 
ingly thin layers, its total thickness being about the tenth of an inch. 
It contains much animal matter, and its origin, no doubt, is due to 
the action of the rain or spray on the birds' dung. Below some small 
masses of guano at Ascension, and on the Abrolhos Islets, I found 
certain stalactitic branching bodies, formed apparently in the same 
manner as the thin white coating on these rocks. The branching 
bodies so closely resembled in general appearance certain nulliporae 
(a family of hard calcareous sea-plants), that in lately looking hastily 
over my collection I did not perceive the difference. The globular 
extremities of the branches are of a pearly texture, like the enamel 
of teeth, but so hard as just to scratch plate-glass. I may here 
mention, that on a part of the coast of Ascension, where there is a 
vast accumulation of shelly sand, an incrustation is deposited on the 
tidal rocks by the water of the sea, resembling, as represented in the 
woodcut, certain cryptogamic plants (Marchantiae) often seen on 
damp walls. The surface of the fronds is beautifully glossy; and 
those parts formed where fully exposed to the light are of a jet black 
colour, but those shaded under ledges are only grey. I have shown 
specimens of this incrustation to several geologists, and they all 
thought that they were of volcanic or igneous origin! In its hard- 
ness and translucency in its polish, equal to that of the finest oliva- 
shell in the bad smell given out, and loss of colour under the blow- 
pipe it shows a close similarity with living sea-shells. Moreover, in 
sea-shells, it is known that the parts habitually covered and shaded 
by the mantle of the animal, are of a paler colour than those fully 
exposed to the light, just as is the case with this incrustation. When 
we remember that lime, either as a phosphate or carbonate, enters 
into the composition of the hard parts, such as bones and shells, of 
all living animals, it is an interesting physiological fact 6 to find sub- 

6 Mr. Horner and Sir David Brewster have described (Philosophical Transactions, 
1836, p. 65) a singular "artificial substance resembling shell." It is deposited in 
fine, transparent, highly polished, brown-coloured laminae, possessing peculiar optical 
properties, on the inside of a vessel, in which cloth, first prepared with glue and 
then with lime, is made to revolve rapidly in water. It is much softer, more 
transparent, and contains more animal matter, than the natural incrustation at 
Ascension; but we here again see the strong tendency which carbonate of lime and 
animal matter evince to form a solid substance allied to shell. 


stances harder than the enamel of teeth, and coloured surfaces as 
well polished as those of a fresh shell, reformed through inorganic 
means from dead organic matter mocking, also, in shape, some of 
the lower vegetable productions. 

We found on St. Paul's only two kinds of birds the booby and 
the noddy. The former is a species of gannet, and the latter a tern. 
Both are of a tame and stupid disposition, and are so unaccustomed 
to visitors, that I could have killed any number of them with my 
geological hammer. The booby lays her eggs on the bare rock; but 
the tern makes a very simple nest with seaweed. By the side of 
many of these nests a small flying-fish was placed; which, I suppose, 
had been brought by the male bird for its partner. It was amusing 
to watch how quickly a large and active crab (Graspus), which 
inhabits the crevices of the rock, stole the fish from the side of the 
nest, as soon as we had disturbed the parent birds. Sir W. Symonds, 
one of the few persons who have landed here, informs me that he 
saw the crabs dragging even the young birds out of their nests, and 
devouring them. Not a single plant, not even a lichen, grows on this 
islet; yet it is inhabited by several insects and spiders. The following 
list completes, I believe, the terrestrial fauna: a fly (Olfersia) living 
on the booby, and a tick which must have come here as a parasite on 
the birds; a small brown moth, belonging to a genus that feeds on 
feathers; a beetle (Quedius) and a woodlouse from beneath the 
dung; and lastly, numerous spiders, which I suppose prey on these 
small attendants and scavengers of the water-fowl. The often re- 
peated description of the stately palm and other noble tropical 
plants, then birds, and lastly man, taking possession of the coral 
islets as soon as formed, in the Pacific, is probably not correct; I 
fear it destroys the poetry of this story, that feather and dirt-feeding 
and parasitic insects and spiders should be the first inhabitants of 
newly formed oceanic land. 

The smallest rock in the tropical seas, by giving a foundation for 
the growth of innumerable kinds of seaweed and compound animals, 
supports likewise a large number of fish. The sharks and the sea- 
men in the boats maintained a constant struggle which should 
secure the greater share of the prey caught by the fishing-lines. I 
have heard that a rock near the Bermudas, lying many miles out at 


sea, and at a considerable depth, was first discovered by the circum- 
stance of fish having been observed in the neighbourhood. 

FERNANDO NORONHA, Feb. 20th.As far as I was enabled to 
observe, during the few hours we stayed at this place, the constitution 
of the island is volcanic, but probably not of a recent date. The most 
remarkable feature is a conical hill, about one thousand feet high, 
the upper part of which is exceedingly steep, and on one side over- 
hangs its base. The rock is phonolite, and is divided into irregular 
columns. On viewing one of these isolated masses, at first one is 
inclined to believe that it has been suddenly pushed up in a semi- 
fluid state. At St. Helena, however, I ascertained that some pinnacles, 
of a nearly similar figure and constitution, had been formed by the 
injection of melted rock into yielding strata, which thus had formed 
the moulds for these gigantic obelisks. The whole island is covered 
with wood; but from the dry ness of the climate there is no appear- 
ance of luxuriance. Half-way up the mountain, some great masses 
of the columnar rock, shaded by laurel-like trees, and ornamented by 
others covered with fine pink flowers but without a single leaf, gave 
a pleasing effect to the nearer parts of the scenery. 

BAHIA, OR SAN SALVADOR. BRAZIL, Feb. 2$th The day has passed 
delightfully. Delight itself, however, is a weak term to express the 
feelings of a naturalist who, for the first time, has wandered by him- 
self in a Brazilian forest. The elegance of the grasses, the novelty 
of the parasitical plants, the beauty of the flowers, the glossy green 
of the foliage, but above all the general luxuriance of the vege- 
tation, filled me with admiration. A most paradoxical mixture of 
sound and silence pervades the shady parts of the wood. The noise 
from the insects is so loud, that it may be heard even in a vessel 
anchored several hundred yards from the shore; yet within the 
recesses of the forest a universal silence appears to reign. To a 
person fond of natural history, such a day as this brings with it a 
deeper pleasure than he can ever hope to experience again. After 
wandering about for some hours, I returned to the landing-place; 
but, before reaching it, I was overtaken by a tropical storm. I tried 
to find shelter under a tree, which was so thick that it would never 


have been penetrated by common English rain; but here, in a couple 
of minutes, a little torrent flowed down the trunk. It is to this 
violence of the rain that we must attribute the verdure at the bottom 
of the thickest woods: if the showers were like those of a colder 
climate, the greater part would be absorbed or evaporated before it 
reached the ground. I will not at present attempt to describe the 
gaudy scenery of this noble bay, because, in our homeward voyage, 
we called here a second time, and I shall then have occasion to 
remark on it. 

Along the whole coast of Brazil, for a length of at least 2000 miles, 
and certainly for a considerable space inland, wherever solid rock 
occurs, it belongs to a granitic formation. The circumstance of this 
enormous area being constituted of materials which most geologists 
believe to have been crystallized when heated under pressure, gives 
rise to many curious reflections. Was this effect produced beneath 
the depths of a profound ocean ? or did a covering of strata formerly 
extend over it, which has since been removed ? Can we believe that 
any power, acting for a time short of infinity, could have denuded 
the granite over so many thousand square leagues? 

On a point not far from the city, where a rivulet entered the 
sea, I observed a fact connected with a subject discussed by Hum- 
boldt. 7 At the cataracts of the great rivers Orinoco, Nile, and Congo, 
the syenitic rocks are coated by a black substance, appearing as if 
they had been polished with plumbago. The layer is of extreme 
thinness; and on analysis by Berzelius it was found to consist of the 
oxides of manganese and iron. In the Orinoco it occurs on the rocks 
periodically washed by the floods, and in those parts alone where the 
stream is rapid; or, as the Indians say, "the rocks are black where 
the waters are white." Here the coating is of a rich brown instead 
of a black colour, and seems to be composed of ferruginous matter 
alone. Hand specimens fail to give a just idea of these brown 
burnished stones which glitter in the sun's rays. They occur only 
within the limits of the tidal waves; and as the rivulet slowly trickles 
down, the surf must supply the polishing power of the cataracts in 
the great rivers. In like manner, the rise and fall of the tide probably 
answer to the periodical inundations; and thus the same effects are 

7 Pers. Narr., vol. v., pt. I., p. 18. 


produced under apparently different but really similar circumstances. 
The origin, however, of these coatings of metallic oxides, which 
seem as if cemented to the rocks, is not understood; and no reason, 
I believe, can be assigned for their thickness remaining the same. 

One day I was amused by watching the habits of the Diodon 
antennatus, which was caught swimming near the shore. This fish, 
with its flabby skin, is well known to possess the singular power 
of distending itself into a nearly spherical form. After having been 
taken out of water for a short time, and then again immersed in it, 
a considerable quantity both of water and air is absorbed by the 
mouth, and perhaps likewise by the branchial orifices. This process 
is effected by two methods: the air is swallowed, and is then forced 
into the cavity of the body, its return being prevented by a muscular 
contraction which is externally visible: but the water enters in a 
gentle stream through the mouth, which is kept wide open and 
motionless; this latter action must, therefore, depend on suction. 
The skin about the abdomen is much looser than that on the back; 
hence, during the inflation, the lower surface becomes far more 
distended than the upper; and the fish, in consequence, floats with 
its back downwards. Cuvier doubts whether the Diodon in this 
position is able to swim; but not only can it thus move forward in 
a straight line, but it can turn round to either side. This latter 
movement is effected solely by the aid of the pectoral fins; the tail 
being collapsed, and not used. From the body being buoyed up with 
so much air, the branchial openings are out of water, but a stream 
drawn in by the mouth constantly flows through them. 

The fish, having remained in this distended state for a short time, 
generally expelled the air and water with considerable force from 
the branchial apertures and mouth. It could emit, at will, a certain 
portion of the water; and it appears, therefore, probable that this 
fluid is taken in partly for the sake of regulating its specific gravity. 
This Diodon possessed several means of defence. It could give a 
severe bite, and could eject water from its mouth to some distance, 
at the same time making a curious noise by the movement of its 
jaws. By the inflation of its body, the papillae, with which the skin 
is covered, become erect and pointed. But the most curious circum- 
stance is, that it secretes from the skin of its belly, when handled, a 


most beautiful carmine-red fibrous matter, which stains ivory and 
paper in so permanent a manner that the tint is retained with all 
its brightness to the present day: I am quite ignorant of the nature 
and use of this secretion. I have heard from Dr. Allan of Forres, 
that he has frequently found a Diodon, floating alive and distended, 
in the stomach of the shark; and that on several occasions he has 
known it eat its way, not only through the coats of the stomach, but 
through the sides of the monster, which has thus been killed. Who 
would ever have imagined that a little soft fish could have destroyed 
the great and savage shark? 

March i8th. We sailed from Bahia. A few days afterwards, 
when not far distant from the Abrolhos Islets, my attention was 
called to a reddish-brown appearance in the sea. The whole surface 
of the water, as it appeared under a weak lens, seemed as if covered 
by chopped bits of hay, with their ends jagged. These are minute 
cylindrical confervas, in bundles or rafts of from twenty to sixty in 
each. Mr. Berkeley informs me that they are the same species 
(Trichodesmium erythraeum) with that found over large spaces in 
the Red Sea, and whence its name of Red Sea is derived. 8 Their 
numbers must be infinite: the ship passed through several bands of 
them, one of which was about ten yards wide, and, judging from 
the mud-like colour of the water, at least two and a half miles long. 
In almost every long voyage some account is given of these confervae. 
They appear especially common in the sea near Australia; and ofT 
Cape Leeuwin I found an allied but smaller and apparently different 
species. Captain Cook, in his third voyage, remarks, that the sailors 
gave to this appearance the name of sea-sawdust. 

Near Keeling Atoll, in the Indian Ocean, I observed many little 
masses of conferva? a few inches square, consisting of long cylindrical 
threads of excessive thinness, so as to be barely visible to the naked 
eye, mingled with other rather larger bodies, finely conical at both 
ends. Two of these are shown in the woodcut united together. They 
vary in length from .04 to .06, and even to .08 of an inch in length; 
and in diameter from .006 to .008 of an inch. Near one extremity of 

8 M. Montagne, in Comptes Rendus, etc., Juillet, 1844; an d Annal. des Scienc. 
Nat., Dec. 1844. 


the cylindrical part, a green septum, formed of granular matter, and 
thickest in the middle, may generally be seen. This, I believe, is the 
bottom of a most delicate, colourless sac, composed of a pulpy sub- 
stance, which lines the exterior case, but does not extend within the 
extreme conical points. In some speci- 
mens, small but perfect spheres of 
brownish granular matter supplied the 
places of the septa; and I observed the curious process by which they 
were produced. The pulpy matter of the internal coating suddenly 
grouped itself into lines, some of which assumed a form radiating 
from a common centre; it then continued, with an irregular and 
rapid movement, to contract itself, so that in the course of a second 
the whole was united into a perfect little sphere, which occupied the 
position of the septum at one end of the now quite hollow case. The 
formation of the granular sphere was hastened by any accidental 
injury. I may add, that frequently a pair of these bodies were attached 
to each other, as represented above, cone beside cone, at that end 
where the septum occurs. 

I will add here a few other observations connected with the dis- 
coloration of the sea from organic causes. On the coast of Chile, a 
few leagues north of Concepcion, the Beagle one day passed through 
great bands of muddy water, exactly like that of a swollen river; 
and again, a degree south of Valparaiso, when fifty miles from the 
land, the same appearance was still more extensive. Some of the 
water placed in a glass was of a pale reddish tint; and, examined 
under a microscope, was seen to swarm with minute animalcula 
darting about, and often exploding. Their shape is oval, and con- 
tracted in the middle by a ring of vibrating curved ciliae. It was, 
however, very difficult to examine them with care, for almost the 
instant motion ceased, even while crossing the field of vision, their 
bodies burst. Sometimes both ends burst at once, sometimes only 
one, and a quantity of coarse, brownish, granular matter was ejected. 
The animal an instant before bursting expanded to half again its 
natural size; and the explosion took place about fifteen seconds after 
the rapid progressive motion had ceased: in a few cases it was pre- 
ceded for a short interval by a rotatory movement on the longer 
axis. About two minutes after any number were isolated in a drop 


of water, they thus perished. The animals move with the narrow 
apex forwards, by the aid of their vibratory ciliae, and generally by 
rapid starts. They are exceedingly minute, and quite invisible to 
the naked eye, only covering a space equal to the square of the 
thousandth of an inch. Their numbers were infinite; for the small- 
est drop of water which I could remove contained very many. In 
one day we passed through two spaces of water thus stained, one of 
which alone must have extended over several square miles. What 
incalculable numbers of these microscopical animals! The colour 
of the water, as seen at some distance, was like that of a river which 
has flowed through a red clay district; but under the shade of the 
vessel's side it was quite as dark as chocolate. The line where the 
red and blue water joined was distinctly defined. The weather for 
some days previously had been calm, and the ocean abounded, to 
an unusual degree, with living creatures. 9 

In the sea around Tierra del Fuego, and at no great distance from 
the land, I have seen narrow lines of water of a bright red colour, 
from the number of Crustacea, which somewhat resemble in form 
large prawns. The sealers call them whale-food. Whether whales 
feed on them I do not know; but terns, cormorants, and immense 
herds of great unwieldy seals derive, on some parts of the coast, 
their chief sustenance from these swimming crabs. Seamen in- 
variably attribute the discoloration of the water to spawn; but I 
found this to be the case only on one occasion. At the distance of 
several leagues from the Archipelago of the Galapagos, the ship 
sailed through three strips of a dark yellowish, or mudlike water; 
these strips were some miles long, but only a few yards wide, and 
they were separated from the surrounding water by a sinuous yet 
distinct margin. The colour was caused by little gelatinous balls, 
about the fifth of an inch in diameter, in which numerous minute 
spherical ovules were imbedded: they were of two distinct kinds, 
one being of a reddish colour and of a different shape from the 

9 M. Lesson (Voyage de la Coquille, torn, i., p. 255) mentions red water off 
Lima, apparently produced by the same cause. Peron, the distinguished naturalist, in 
the Voyage aux Terres Australes, gives no less than twelve references to voyagers 
who have alluded to the discoloured waters of the sea (vol. ii. p. 239). To the 
references given by Peron may be added, Humboldt's Pers. Narr., vol. vi. p. 804; 
Flinders' Voyage, vol. i. p. 92; Labillardiere, vol. i. p. 287; Ulloa's Voyage; Voyage 
of the Astrolabe and of the Coquille; Captain King's Survey of Australia, etc. 


other. I cannot form a conjecture as to what two kinds of animals 
these belonged. Captain Colnett remarks, that this appearance is 
very common among the Galapagos Islands, and that the directions 
of the bands indicate that of the currents; in the described case, 
however, the line was caused by the wind. The only other appear- 
ance which I have to notice, is a thin oily coat on the water which 
displays iridescent colours. I saw a considerable tract of the ocean 
thus covered on the coast of Brazil; the seamen attributed it to the 
putrefying carcase of some whale, which probably was floating at 
no great distance. I do not here mention the minute gelatinous 
particles, hereafter to be referred to, which are frequently dispersed 
throughout the water, for they are not sufficiently abundant to 
create any change of colour. 

There are two circumstances in the above accounts which appear 
remarkable: first, how do the various bodies which form the bands 
with defined edges keep together? In the case of the prawn-like 
crabs, their movements were as coinstantaneous as in a regiment of 
soldiers; but this cannot happen from anything like voluntary action 
with the ovules, or the confervas, nor is it probable among the in- 
fusoria. Secondly, what causes the length and narrowness of the 
bands ? The appearance so much resembles that which may be seen 
in every torrent, where the stream uncoils into long streaks the froth 
collected in the eddies, that I must attribute the effect to a similar 
action either of the currents of the air or sea. Under this supposition 
we must believe that the various organized bodies are produced in 
certain favourable places, and are thence removed by the set of either 
wind or water. I confess, however, there is a very great difficulty in 
imagining any one spot to be the birthplace of the millions of mil- 
lions of animalcula and confervas: for whence come the germs at 
such points? the parent bodies having been distributed by the 
winds and waves over the immense ocean. But on no other hy- 
pothesis can I understand their linear grouping. I may add that 
Scoresby remarks that green water abounding with pelagic animals 
is invariably found in a certain part of the Arctic Sea. 


Rio de Janeiro Excursion north of Cape Frio Great Evaporation 
Slavery Botofogo Bay Terrestrial Planariae Clouds on the Corco- 
vado Heavy Rain Musical Frogs Phosphorescent Insects Elater, 
springing powers of Blue Haze Noise made by a Butterfly Ento- 
mology Ants Wasp killing a Spider Parasitical Spider Artifices 
of an Epeira Gregarious Spider Spider with an unsymmetrical Web. 

/iPRIL qth to July 5th, 1832. A few days after our arrival I 

f-m became acquainted with an Englishman who was going to 

^ "^ visit his estate, situated rather more than a hundred miles 

from the capital, to the northward of Cape Frio. I gladly accepted 

his kind offer of allowing me to accompany him. 

April 8th. Our party amounted to seven. The first stage was 
very interesting. The day was powerfully hot, and as we passed 
through the woods, everything was motionless, excepting the large 
and brilliant butterflies, which lazily fluttered about. The view seen 
when crossing the hills behind Praia Grande was most beautiful; the 
colours were intense, and the prevailing tint a dark blue; the sky 
and the calm waters of the bay vied with each other in splendour. 
After passing through some cultivated country, we entered a forest, 
which in the grandeur of all its parts could not be exceeded. We 
arrived by midday at Ithacaia; this small village is situated on a 
plain, and round the central house are the huts of the negroes. These, 
from their regular form and position, reminded me of the drawings 
of the Hottentot habitations in Southern Africa. As the moon rose 
early, we determined to start the same evening for our sleeping-place 
at the Lagoa Marica. As it was growing dark we passed under one 
of the massive, bare, and steep hills of granite which are so common 
in this country. This spot is notorious from having been, for a long 
time, the residence of some runaway slaves, who, by cultivating a little 
ground near the top, contrived to eke out a subsistence. At length 
they were discovered, and a party of soldiers being sent, the whole 



were seized with the exception of one old woman, who, sooner than 
again be led into slavery, dashed herself to pieces from the summit 
of the mountain. In a Roman matron this would have been called 
the noble love of freedom: in a poor negress it is mere brutal ob- 
stinacy. We continued riding for some hours. For the few last miles 
the road was intricate, and it passed through a desert waste of marshes 
and lagoons. The scene by the dimmed light of the moon was most 
desolate. A few fireflies flitted by us; and the solitary snipe, as it 
rose, uttered its plaintive cry. The distant and sullen roar of the sea 
scarcely broke the stillness of the night. 

April yth. We left our miserable sleeping-place before sunrise. 
The road passed through a narrow sandy plain, lying between the 
sea and the interior salt lagoons. The number of beautiful fishing 
birds, such as egrets and cranes, and the succulent plants assuming 
most fantastical forms, gave to the scene an interest which it would 
not otherwise have possessed. The few stunted trees were loaded 
with parasitical plants, among which the beauty and delicious fra- 
grance of some of the orchideae were most to be admired. As the sun 
rose, the day became extremely hot, and the reflection of the light 
and heat from the white sand was very distressing. We dined at 
Mandetiba; the thermometer in the shade being 84. The beautiful 
view of the distant wooded hills, reflected in the perfectly calm water 
of an extensive lagoon, quite refreshed us. As the venda 1 here was 
a very good one, and I have the pleasant, but rare remembrance, of 
an excellent dinner, I will be grateful and presently describe it, as 
the type of its class. These houses are often large, and are built of 
thick upright posts, with boughs interwoven, and afterwards plas- 
tered. They seldom have floors, and never glazed windows; but 
are generally pretty well roofed. Universally the front part is open, 
forming a kind of verandah, in which tables and benches are placed. 
The bed-rooms join on each side, and here the passenger may sleep 
as comfortably as he can, on a wooden platform, covered by a 
thin straw mat. The venda stands in a courtyard, where the horses 
are fed. On first arriving it was our custom to unsaddle the horses 
and give them their Indian corn; then, with a low bow, to ask the 
senhor to do us the favour to give up something to eat. "Anything 

1 Venda, the Portuguese name for an inn. 


you choose, sir," was his usual answer. For the few first times, 
vainly I thanked providence for having guided us to so good a man. 
The conversation proceeding, the case universally became deplorable. 
"Any fish can you do us the favour of giving?" "Oh! no, sir." 
"Any soup?" "No, sir." "Any bread?" "Oh! no, sir." "Any 
dried meat?" "Oh! no, sir." If we were lucky, by waiting a couple 
of hours, we obtained fowls, rice, and farinha. It not unfrequently 
happened, that we were obliged to kill, with stones, the poultry for 
our own supper. When, thoroughly exhausted by fatigue and hunger, 
we timorously hinted that we should be glad of our meal, the pom- 
pous, and (though true) most unsatisfactory answer was, "It will 
be ready when it is ready." If we had dared to remonstrate any 
further, we should have been told to proceed on our journey, as being 
too impertinent. The hosts are most ungracious and disagreeable in 
their manners; their houses and their persons are often filthily dirty; 
the want of the accommodation of forks, knives, and spoons is com- 
mon; and I am sure no cottage or hovel in England could be found 
in a state so utterly destitute of every comfort. At Campos Novos, 
however, we fared sumptuously; having rice and fowls, biscuit, wine, 
and spirits, for dinner; coffee in the evening, and fish with coffee for 
breakfast. All this, with good food for the horses, only cost 2s. 6d. per 
head. Yet the host of this venda, being asked if he knew anything 
of a whip which one of the party had lost, gruffly answered, "How 
should I know? why did you not take care of it? I suppose the 
dogs have eaten it." 

Leaving Mandetiba, we continued to pass through an intricate 
wilderness of lakes; in some of which were fresh, in others salt 
water shells. Of the former kinds, I found a Limnaea in great num- 
bers in a lake, into which, the inhabitants assured me that the sea 
enters once a year, and sometimes oftener, and makes the water 
quite salt. I have no doubt many interesting facts, in relation to 
marine and fresh water animals, might be observed in this chain of 
lagoons, which skirt the coast of Brazil. M. Gay 2 has stated that he 
found in the neighbourhood of Rio, shells of the marine genera 
solen and mytilus, and fresh water ampullariae, living together in 
brackish water. I also frequently observed in the lagoon near the 

2 Annales des Sciences Naturelles for 1833. 


Botanic Garden, where the water is only a little less salt than in the 
sea, a species of hydrophilus, very similar to a water-beetle com- 
mon in the ditches of England: in the same lake the only shell 
belonged to a genus generally found in estuaries. 

Leaving the coast for a time, we again entered the forest. The 
trees were very lofty, and remarkable, compared with those of 
Europe, from the whiteness of their trunks. I see by my note- 
book, "wonderful and beautiful, flowering parasites," invariably 
struck me as the most novel object in these grand scenes. Travel- 
ling onwards we passed through tracts of pasturage, much injured 
by the enormous conical ants' nests, which were nearly twelve feet 
high. They gave to the plain exactly the appearance of the mud 
volcanos at Jorullo, as figured by Humboldt. We arrived at Engen- 
hodo after it was dark, having been ten hours on horseback. I 
never ceased, during the whole journey, to be surprised at the 
amount of labour which the horses were capable of enduring; they 
appeared also to recover from any injury much sooner than those 
of our English breed. The Vampire bat is often the cause of much 
trouble, by biting the horses on their withers. The injury is gen- 
erally not so much owing to the loss of blood, as to the inflamma- 
tion which the pressure of the saddle afterwards produces. The 
whole circumstance has lately been doubted in England; I was there- 
fore fortunate in being present when one (Desmodus d'orbignyi, 
Wat.) was actually caught on a horse's back. We were bivouacking 
late one evening near Coquimbo, in Chile, when my servant, notic- 
ing that one of the horses was very restive, went to see what was 
the matter, and fancying he could distinguish something, suddenly 
put his hand on the beast's withers, and secured the vampire. In 
the morning the spot where the bite had been inflicted was easily 
distinguished from being slightly swollen and bloody. The third day 
afterwards we rode the horse, without any ill effects. 

April i ph. After three days' travelling we arrived at Socego, 
the estate of Senhor Manuel Figuireda, a relation of one of our party. 
The house was simple, and, though like a barn in form, was well 
suited to the climate. In the sitting-room gilded chairs and sofas 
were oddly contrasted with the whitewashed walls, thatched roof, 
and windows without glass. The house, together with the granaries, 


the stables, and workshops for the blacks, who had been taught vari- 
ous trades, formed a rude kind of quadrangle; in the centre of which 
a large pile of coffee was drying. These buildings stand on a little 
hill, overlooking the cultivated ground, and surrounded on every 
side by a wall of dark green luxuriant forest. The chief produce of 
this part of the country is coffee. Each tree is supposed to yield an- 
nually, on an average, two pounds; but some give as much as eight. 
Mandioca or cassada is likewise cultivated in great quantity. Every 
part of this plant is useful; the leaves and stalks are eaten by the 
horses, and the roots are ground into a pulp, which, when pressed 
dry and baked, forms the farinha, the principal article of sustenance 
in the Brazils. It is a curious, though well-known fact, that the 
juice of this most nutritious plant is highly poisonous. A few years 
ago a cow died at this Fazenda, in consequence of having drunk 
some of it. Senhor Figuireda told me that he had planted, the year 
before, one bag of feijao or beans, and three of rice; the former of 
which produced eighty, and the latter three hundred and twenty 
fold. The pasturage supports a fine stock of cattle, and the woods 
are so full of game that a deer had been killed on each of the three 
previous days. This profusion of food showed itself at dinner, 
where, if the tables did not groan, the guests surely did; for each 
person is expected to eat of every dish. One day, having, as I thought, 
nicely calculated so that nothing should go away untasted, to my 
utter dismay a roast turkey and a pig appeared in all their substantial 
reality. During the meals, it was the employment of a man to drive 
out of the room sundry old hounds, and dozens of little black chil- 
dren, which crawled in together, at every opportunity. As long as the 
idea of slavery could be banished, there was something exceedingly 
fascinating in this simple and patriarchal style of living: it was 
such a perfect retirement and independence from the rest of the 

As soon as any stranger is seen arriving, a large bell is set tolling, 
and generally some small cannon are fired. The event is thus an- 
nounced to the rocks and woods, but to nothing else. One morning 
I walked out an hour before daylight to admire the solemn stillness 
of the scene; at last, the silence was broken by the morning hymn, 
raised on high by the whole body of the blacks; and in this manner 


their daily work is generally begun. On such fazendas as these, I 
have no doubt the slaves pass happy and contented lives. On Satur- 
day and Sunday they work for themselves, and in this fertile climate 
the labour of two days is sufficient to support a man and his family 
for the whole week. 

April i ph. Leaving Socego, we rode to another estate on the Rio 
Macae, which was the last patch of cultivated ground in that direc- 
tion. The estate was two and a half miles long, and the owner had 
forgotten how many broad. Only a very small piece had been 
cleared, yet almost every acre was capable of yielding all the various 
rich productions of a tropical land. Considering the enormous area 
of Brazil, the proportion of cultivated ground can scarcely be con- 
sidered as anything, compared to that which is left in the state of 
nature: at some future age, how vast a population it will support! 
During the second day's journey we found the road so shut up, that 
it was necessary that a man should go ahead with a sword to cut 
away the creepers. The forest abounded with beautiful objects; 
among which the tree ferns, though not large, were, from their 
bright green foliage, and the elegant curvature of their fronds, 
most worthy of admiration. In the evening it rained very heavily, 
and although the thermometer stood at 65, I felt very cold. As 
soon as the rain ceased, it was curious to observe the extraordinary 
evaporation which commenced over the whole extent of the forest. 
At the height of a hundred feet the hills were buried in a dense white 
vapour, which rose like columns of smoke from the most thickly 
wooded parts, and especially from the valleys. I observed this phe- 
nomenon on several occasions. I suppose it is owing to the large 
surface of foliage, previously heated by the sun's rays. 

While staying at this estate, I was very nearly being an eye-witness 
to one of those atrocious acts which can only take place in a slave 
country. Owing to a quarrel and a lawsuit, the owner was on the 
point of taking all the women and children from the male slaves, 
and selling them separately at the public auction at Rio. Interest, 
and not any feeling of compassion, prevented this act. Indeed, I do 
not believe the inhumanity of separating thirty families, who had 
lived together for many years, even occurred to the owner. Yet I will 
pledge myself, that in humanity and good feeling he was superior 


to the common run of men. It may be said there exists no limit to 
the blindness of interest and selfish habit. I may mention one very 
trifling anecdote, which at the time struck me more forcibly than 
any story of cruelty. I was crossing a ferry with a negro, who was 
uncommonly stupid. In endeavouring to make him understand, I 
talked loud, and made signs, in doing which I passed my hand near 
his face. He, I suppose, thought I was in a passion, and was going to 
strike him; for instantly, with a frightened look and half-shut eyes, 
he dropped his hands. I shall never forget my feelings of surprise, 
disgust, and shame, at seeing a great powerful man afraid even to 
ward off a blow, directed, as he thought, at his face. This man had 
been trained to a degradation lower than the slavery of the most 
helpless animal. 

April 1 8th. In returning, we spent two days at Socego, and I em- 
ployed them in collecting insects in the forest. The greater number of 
trees, although so lofty, are not more than three or four feet in cir- 
cumference. There are, of course, a few of much greater dimen- 
sions. Senhor Manuel was then making a canoe 70 feet in length 
from a solid trunk, which had originally been no feet long, and of 
great thickness. The contrast of palm trees, growing amidst the com- 
mon branching kinds, never fails to give the scene an intertropical 
character. Here the woods were ornamented by the Cabbage Palm 
one of the most beautiful of its family. With a stem so narrow 
that it might be clasped with the two hands, it waves its elegant head 
at the height of forty or fifty feet above the ground. The woody 
creepers, themselves covered by other creepers, were of great thick- 
ness: some which I measured were two feet in circumference. Many 
of the older trees presented a very curious appearance from the 
tresses of a liana hanging from their boughs, and resembling bundles 
of hay. If the eye was turned from the world of foliage above, to the 
ground beneath, it was attracted by the extreme elegance of the 
leaves of the ferns and mimosae. The latter, in some parts, covered 
the surface with a brush-wood only a few inches high. In walking 
across these thick beds of mimosae, a broad track was marked by the 
change of shade, produced by the drooping of their sensitive petioles. 
It is easy to specify the individual objects of admiration in these 
grand scenes; but it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the 


higher feelings of wonder, astonishment, and devotion, which fill and 
elevate the mind. 

April igth. Leaving Socego, during the two first days, we re- 
traced our steps. It was very wearisome work, as the road generally 
ran across a glaring hot sandy plain, not far from the coast. I noticed 
that each time the horse put its foot on the fine siliceous sand, a gentle 
chirping noise was produced. On the third day we took a different 
line, and passed through the gay little village of Madre de Deos. 
This is one of the principal lines of road in Brazil; yet it was in so 
bad a state that no wheeled vehicle, excepting the clumsy bullock- 
wagon, could pass along. In our whole journey we did not cross a 
single bridge built of stone; and those made of logs of wood were 
frequently so much out of repair, that it was necessary to go on one 
side to avoid them. All distances are inaccurately known. The road 
is often marked by crosses, in the place of milestones, to signify where 
human blood has been spilled. On the evening of the 23rd we ar- 
rived at Rio, having finished our pleasant little excursion. 

During the remainder of my stay at Rio, I resided in a cottage at 
Botofogo Bay. It was impossible to wish for anything more delight- 
ful than thus to spend some weeks in so magnificent a country. In 
England any person fond of natural history enjoys in his walks a 
great advantage, by always having something to attract his attention; 
but in these fertile climates, teeming with life, the attractions are so 
numerous, that he is scarcely able to walk at all. 

The few observations which I was enabled to make were almost 
exclusively confined to the invertebrate animals. The existence of a 
division of the genus Planaria, which inhabits the dry land, inter- 
ested me much. These animals are of so simple a structure, that 
Cuvier has arranged them with the intestinal worms, though never 
found within the bodies of other animals. Numerous species in- 
habit both salt and fresh water; but those to which I allude were 
found, even in the drier parts of the forest, beneath logs of rotten 
wood, on which I believe they feed. In general form they resemble 
little slugs, but are very much narrower in proportion, and several of 
the species are beautifully coloured with longitudinal stripes. Their 
structure is very simple: near the middle of the under or crawling sur- 


face there are two small transverse slits, from the anterior one of 
which a funnel-shaped and highly irritable mouth can be protruded. 
For some time after the rest of the animal was completely dead from 
the effects of salt water or any other cause, this organ still retained 
its vitality. 

I found no less than twelve different species of terrestrial Planariae 
in different parts of the southern hemisphere. 3 Some specimens 
which I obtained at Van Dieman's Land, I kept alive for nearly two 
months, feeding them on rotten wood. Having cut one of them 
transversely into two nearly equal parts, in the course of a fortnight 
both had the shape of perfect animals. I had, however, so divided the 
body, that one of the halves contained both the inferior orifices, and 
the other, in consequence, none. In the course of twenty-five days 
from the operation, the more perfect half could not have been dis- 
tinguished from any other specimen. The other had increased much 
in size; and towards its posterior end, a clear space was formed in 
the parenchymatous mass, in which a rudimentary cup-shaped 
mouth could clearly be distinguished; on the under surface, however, 
no corresponding slit was yet open. If the increased heat of the 
weather, as we approached the equator, had not destroyed all the 
individuals, there can be no doubt that this last step would have com- 
pleted its structure. Although so well-known an experiment, it was 
interesting to watch the gradual production of every essential organ, 
out of the simple extremity of another animal. It is extremely difficult 
to preserve these Planariae; as soon as the cessation of life allows the 
ordinary laws of change to act, their entire bodies become soft and 
fluid, with a rapidity which I have never seen equalled. 

I first visited the forest in which these Planariae were found, in 
company with an old Portuguese priest who took me out to hunt with 
him. The sport consisted in turning into the cover a few dogs, 
and then patiently waiting to fire at any animal which might ap- 
pear. We were accompanied by the son of a neighbouring farmer 
a good specimen of a wild Brazilian youth. He was dressed in a 
tattered old shirt and trousers, and had his head uncovered: he car- 
ried an old-fashioned gun and a large knife. The habit of carry- 

3 1 have described and named these species in the Annals of Nat. Hist., vol. xiv. 
p. 241. 


ing the knife is universal; and in traversing a thick wood it is al- 
most necessary, on account of the creeping plants. The frequent oc- 
currence of murder may be partly attributed to this habit. The 
Brazilians are so dexterous with the knife, that they can throw it to 
some distance with precision, and with sufficient force to cause a 
fatal wound. I have seen a number of little boys practising this art 
as a game of play, and from their skill in hitting an upright stick, 
they promised well for more earnest attempts. My companion, the 
day before, had shot two large bearded monkeys. These animals 
have prehensile tails, the extremity of which, even after death, can 
support the whole weight of the body. One of them thus remained 
fast to a branch, and it was necessary to cut down a large tree to pro- 
cure it. This was soon effected, and down came tree and monkey 
with an awful crash. Our day's sport, besides the monkey, was con- 
fined to sundry small green parrots and a few toucans. I profited, 
however, by my acquaintance with the Portuguese padre, for on 
another occasion he gave me a fine specimen of the Yagouaroundi 

Every one has heard of the beauty of the scenery near Botofogo. 
The house in which I lived was seated close beneath the well-known 
mountain of the Corcovado. It has been remarked, with much 
truth, that abruptly conical hills are characteristic of the formation 
which Humboldt designates as gneiss-granite. Nothing can be more 
striking than the effect of these huge rounded masses of naked rock 
rising out of the most luxuriant vegetation. 

I was often interested by watching the clouds, which, rolling in 
from seaward, formed a bank just beneath the highest point of the 
Corcovado. This mountain, like most others, when thus partly 
veiled, appeared to rise to a far prouder elevation than its real height 
of 2300 feet. Mr. Daniell has observed, in his meteorological essays, 
that a cloud sometimes appears fixed on a mountain summit, while 
the wind continues to blow over it. The same phenomenon here 
presented a slightly different appearance. In this case the cloud was 
clearly seen to curl over, and rapidly pass by the summit, and yet was 
neither diminished nor increased in size. The sun was setting, and 
a gentle southerly breeze, striking against the southern side of the 
rock, mingled its current with the colder air above; and the vapour 


was thus condensed; but as the light wreaths of cloud passed over 
the ridge, and came within the influence of the warmer atmosphere 
of the northern sloping bank, they were immediately re-dissolved. 

The climate, during the months of May and June, or the begin- 
ning of winter, was delightful. The mean temperature, from ob- 
servations taken at nine o'clock, both morning and evening, was 
only 72. It often rained heavily, but the drying southerly winds 
soon again rendered the walks pleasant. One morning, in the course 
of six hours, 1.6 inches of rain fell. As this storm passed over the 
forests which surround the Corcovado, the sound produced by the 
drops pattering on the countless multitude of leaves was very re- 
markable, it could be heard at the distance of a quarter of a mile, 
and was like the rushing of a great body of water. After the hotter 
days, it was delicious to sit quietly in the garden and watch the 
evening pass into night. Nature, in these climes, chooses her vocal- 
ists from more humble performers than in Europe. A small frog, of 
the genus Hyla, sits on a blade of grass about an inch above the sur- 
face of the water, and sends forth a pleasing chirp : when several are 
together they sing in harmony on different notes. I had some diffi- 
culty in catching a specimen of this frog. The genus Hyla has its 
toes terminated by small suckers; and I found this animal could 
crawl up a pane of glass, when placed absolutely perpendicular. 
Various cicidae and crickets, at the same time, keep up a ceaseless 
shrill cry, but which, softened by the distance, is not unpleasant. 
Every evening after dark this great concert commenced; and often 
have I sat listening to it, until my attention has been drawn away by 
some curious passing insect. 

At these times the fireflies are seen flitting about from hedge to 
hedge. On a dark night the light can be seen at about two hundred 
paces distant. It is remarkable that in all the different kinds of glow- 
worms, shining elaters, and various marine animals (such as the 
Crustacea, medusae, nereidae, a coralline of the genus Clytia, and 
Pyrosma), which I have observed, the light has been of a well-marked 
green colour. All the fireflies, which I caught here, belonged to the 
Lampyridae (in which family the English glowworm is included), 
and the greater number of specimens were of Lampyris occidentalis. 4 

4 I am greatly indebted to Mr. Waterhouse for his kindness in naming for me this 
and many other insects, and in giving me much valuable assistance. 


I found that this insect emitted the most brilliant flashes when ir- 
ritated: in the intervals, the abdominal rings were obscured. The 
flash was almost co-instantaneous in the two rings, but it was just 
perceptible first in the anterior one. The shining matter was fluid 
and very adhesive: little spots, where the skin had been torn, con- 
tinued bright with a slight scintillation, whilst the uninjured parts 
were obscured. When the insect was decapitated the rings remained 
uninterruptedly bright, but not so brilliant as before : local irritation 
with a needle always increased the vividness of the light. The rings 
in one instance retained their luminous property nearly twenty-four 
hours after the death of the insect. From these facts it would appear 
probable, that the animal has only the power of concealing or extin- 
guishing the light for short intervals, and that at other times the dis- 
play is involuntary. On the muddy and wet gravel-walks I found the 
larvae of this lampyris in great numbers: they resembled in general 
form the female of the English glowworm. These larvae possessed 
but feeble luminous powers; very differently from their parents, on 
the slightest touch they feigned death and ceased to shine; nor did 
irritation excite any fresh display. I kept several of them alive for 
some time: their tails are very singular organs, for they act, by a 
well-fitted contrivance, as suckers or organs of attachment, and like- 
wise as reservoirs for saliva, or some such fluid. I repeatedly fed 
them on raw meat; and I invariably observed, that every now and 
then the extremity of the tail was applied to the mouth, and a drop 
of fluid exuded on the meat, which was then in the act of being 
consumed. The tail, notwithstanding so much practice, does not 
seem to be able to find its way to the mouth; at least the neck was 
always touched first, and apparently as a guide. 

When we were at Bahia, an elater or beetle (Pyrophorus lumi- 
nosus, Illig.) seemed the most common luminous insect. The light 
in this case was also rendered more brilliant by irritation. I amused 
myself one day by observing the springing powers of this insect, 
which have not, as it appears to me, been properly described. 5 The 
elater, when placed on its back and preparing to spring, moved its 
head and thorax backwards, so that the pectoral spine was drawn 
out, and rested on the edge of its sheath. The same backward move- 
ment being continued, the spine, by the full action of the muscles, 

5 Kirby's Entomology, vol. ii. p. 317. 


was bent like a spring; and the insect at this moment rested on the 
extremity of its head and wing-cases. The effort being suddenly 
relaxed, the head and thorax flew up, and in consequence, the base 
of the wing-cases struck the supporting surface with such force, that 
the insect by the reaction was jerked upwards to the height of one 
or two inches. The projecting points of the thorax, and the sheath 
of the spine, served to steady the whole body during the spring. In 
the descriptions which I have read, sufficient stress does not appear 
to have been laid on the elasticity of the spine: so sudden a spring 
could not be the result of simple muscular contraction, without the 
aid of some mechanical contrivance. 

On several occasions I enjoyed some short but most pleasant ex- 
cursions in the neighbouring country. One day I went to the Botanic 
Garden, where many plants, well known for their great utility, 
might be seen growing. The leaves of the camphor, pepper, cinna- 
mon, and clove trees were delightfully aromatic; and the bread-fruit, 
the jaca, and the mango, vied with each other in the magnificence 
of their foliage. The landscape in the neighbourhood of Bahia 
almost takes its character from the two latter trees. Before seeing 
them, I had no idea that any trees could cast so black a shade on the 
ground. Both of them bear to the evergreen vegetation of these 
climates the same kind of relation which laurels and hollies in Eng- 
land do to the lighter green of the deciduous trees. It may be ob- 
served, that the houses within the tropics are surrounded by the 
most beautiful forms of vegetation, because many of them are at 
the same time most useful to man. Who can doubt that these quali- 
ties are united in the banana, the cocoa-nut, the many kinds of palm, 
the orange, and the bread-fruit tree ? 

During this day I was particularly struck with a remark of 
Humboldt's, who often alludes to "the thin vapour which, without 
changing the transparency of the air, renders its tints more har- 
monious, and softens its effects." This is an appearance which I 
have never observed in the temperate zones. The atmosphere, seen 
through a short space of half or three-quarters of a mile, was per- 
fectly lucid, but at a greater distance all colours were blended into 
a most beautiful haze, of a pale French grey, mingled with a little 
blue. The condition of the atmosphere between the morning and 


about noon, when the effect was most evident, had undergone little 
change, excepting in its dryness. In the interval, the difference be- 
tween the dew point and temperature had increased from 7. 5 to 17. 

On another occasion I started early and walked to the Gavia, or 
topsail mountain. The air was delightfully cool and fragrant; and 
the drops of dew still glittered on the leaves of the large liliaceous 
plants, which shaded the streamlets of clear water. Sitting down on 
a block of granite, it was delightful to watch the various insects and 
birds as they flew past. The humming-bird seems particularly fond 
of such shady retired spots. Whenever I saw these little creatures 
buzzing round a flower, with their wings vibrating so rapidly as to 
be scarcely visible, I was reminded of the sphinx moths : their move- 
ments and habits are indeed in many respects very similar. 

Following a pathway, I entered a noble forest, and from a height 
of five or six hundred feet, one of those splendid views was pre- 
sented, which are so common on every side of Rio. At this elevation 
the landscape attains its most brilliant tint; and every form, every 
shade, so completely surpasses in magnificence all that the European 
has ever beheld in his own country, that he knows not how to express 
his feelings. The general effect frequently recalled to my mind the 
gayest scenery of the Opera-house or the great theatres. I never re- 
turned from these excursions empty-handed. This day I found a 
specimen of a curious fungus, called Hymenophallus. Most people 
know the English Phallus, which in autumn taints the air with its 
odious smell : this, however, as the entomologist is aware, is, to some 
of our beetles a delightful fragrance. So was it here; for a Strongylus, 
attracted by the odour, alighted on the fungus as I carried it in my 
hand. We here see in two distant countries a similar relation be- 
tween plants and insects of the same families, though the species of 
both are different. When man is the agent in introducing into a 
country a new species, this relation is often broken: as one instance 
of this I may mention, that the leaves of the cabbages and lettuces, 
which in England afford food to such a multitude of slugs and cater- 
pillars, in the gardens near Rio are untouched. 

During our stay at Brazil I made a large collection of insects. A 
few general observations on the comparative importance of the dif- 
ferent orders may be interesting to the English entomologist. The 


large and brilliantly coloured Lepidoptera bespeak the zone they 
inhabit, far more plainly than any other race of animals. I allude 
only to the butterflies; for the moths, contrary to what might have 
been expected from the rankness of the vegetation, certainly appeared 
in much fewer numbers than in our own temperate regions. I was 
much surprised at the habits of Papilio feronia. This butterfly is not 
uncommon, and generally frequents the orange-groves. Although 
a high flier, yet it very frequently alights on the trunks of trees. On 
these occasions its head is invariably placed downwards; and its 
wings are expanded in a horizontal plane, instead of being folded 
vertically, as is commonly the case. This is the only butterfly which 
I have ever seen, that uses its legs for running. Not being aware of 
this fact, the insect, more than once, as I cautiously approached with 
my forceps, shuffled on one side just as the instrument was on the 
point of closing, and thus escaped. But a far more singular fact is 
the power which this species possesses of making a noise. 6 Several 
times when a pair, probably male and female, were chasing each 
other in an irregular course, they passed within a few yards of me; 
and I distinctly heard a clicking noise, similar to that produced by 
a toothed wheel passing under a spring catch. The noise was con- 
tinued at short intervals, and could be distinguished at about twenty 
yards' distance : I am certain there is no error in the observation. 

I was disappointed in the general aspect of the Coleoptera. The 
number of minute and obscurely coloured beetles is exceedingly 
great. 7 The cabinets of Europe can, as yet, boast only of the larger 
species from tropical climates. It is sufficient to disturb the com- 
posure of an entomologist's mind, to look forward to the future 

6 Mr. Doubleday has lately described (before the Entomological Society, March 3rd, 
1845) a peculiar structure in the wings of this butterfly, which seems to be the means 
of its making its noise. He says, "It is remarkable for having a sort of drum at the 
base of the fore wings, between the costal nervure and the subcostal. These two 
nervures, moreover, have a peculiar screw-like diaphragm or vessel in the interior." 
I find in Langsdorff's travels (in the years 1803-7, p. 74) it is said, that in the 
island of St. Catherine's on the coast of Brazil, a butterfly called Februa Hoffmanseggi, 
makes a noise, when flying away, like a ratde. 

7 1 may mention, as a common instance of one day's (June 23rd) collecting, when 
I was not attending particularly to the Coleoptera, that I caught sixty-eight species 
of that order. Among these, there were only two of the Carabidae, four Brachelytra, 
fifteen Rhyncophora, and fourteen of the Chrysomelidae. Thirty-seven species of 
Arachnidae, which I brought home, will be sufficient to prove that I was not paying 
overmuch attention to the generally favoured order of Coleoptera. 


dimensions of a complete catalogue. The carnivorous beetles, or 
Carabidae, appear in extremely few numbers within the tropics: this 
is the more remarkable when compared to the case of the carnivorous 
quadrupeds, which are so abundant in hot countries. I was struck 
with this observation both on entering Brazil, and when I saw the 
many elegant and active forms of the Harpalidae re-appearing on 
the temperate plains of La Plata. Do the very numerous spiders and 
rapacious Hymenoptera supply the place of the carnivorous beetles ? 
The carrion-feeders and Brachelytra are very uncommon; on the 
other hand, the Rhyncophora and Chrysomelidae, all of which de- 
pend on the vegetable world for subsistence, are present in astonish- 
ing numbers. I do not here refer to the number of different species, 
but to that of the individual insects; for on this it is that the most 
striking character in the entomology of different countries depends. 
The orders Orthoptera and Hemiptera are particularly numerous; 
as likewise is the stinging division of the Hymenoptera; the bees, 
perhaps, being excepted. A person, on first entering a tropical forest, 
is astonished at the labours of the ants : well-beaten paths branch off 
in every direction, on which an army of never-failing foragers may 
be seen, some going forth, and others returning, burdened with 
pieces of green leaf, often larger than their own bodies. 

A small dark-coloured ant sometimes migrates in countless num- 
bers. One day, at Bahia, my attention was drawn by observing many 
spiders, cockroaches, and other insects, and some lizards, rushing in 
the greatest agitation across a bare piece of ground. A little way 
behind, every stalk and leaf was blackened by a small ant. The 
swarm having crossed the bare space, divided itself, and descended 
an old wall. By this means many insects were fairly enclosed; and 
the efforts which the poor little creatures made to extricate them- 
selves from such a death were wonderful. When the ants came to 
the road they changed their course, and in narrow files reascended 
the wall. Having placed a small stone so as to intercept one of the 
lines, the whole body attacked it, and then immediately retired. 
Shortly afterwards another body came to the charge, and again 
having failed to make any impression, this line of march was en- 
tirely given up. By going an inch round, the file might have avoided 
the stone, and this doubtless would have happened, if it had been 


originally there: but having been attacked, the lion-hearted little 
warriors scorned the idea of yielding. 

Certain wasp-like insects, which construct in the corners of the 
verandahs clay cells for their larvae, are very numerous in the neigh- 
bourhood of Rio. These cells they stuff full of half-dead spiders and 
caterpillars, which they seem wonderfully to know how to sting to 
that degree as to leave them paralysed but alive, until their eggs 
are hatched; and the larvae feed on the horrid mass of powerless, 
half-killed victims a sight which has been described by an en- 
thusiastic naturalist 8 as curious and pleasing! I was much interested 
one day by watching a deadly contest between a Pepsis and a large 
spider of the genus Lycosa. The wasp made a sudden dash at its 
prey, and then flew away: the spider was evidently wounded, for, 
trying to escape, it rolled down a little slope, but had still strength 
sufficient to crawl into a thick tuft of grass. The wasp soon returned, 
and seemed surprised at not immediately finding its victim. It then 
commenced as regular a hunt as ever hound did after fox; making 
short semicircular casts, and all the time rapidly vibrating its wings 
and antennae. The spider, though well concealed, was soon dis- 
covered; and the wasp, evidently still afraid of its adversary's jaws, 
after much manoeuvring, inflicted two stings on the under side of 
its thorax. At last, carefully examining with its antennae the now 
motionless spider, it proceeded to drag away the body. But I stopped 
both tyrant and prey. 9 

The number of spiders, in proportion to other insects, is here 
compared with England very much larger; perhaps more so than 
with any other division of the articulate animals. The variety of 
species among the jumping spiders appears almost infinite. The 
genus, or rather family, of Epeira, is here characterized by many 
singular forms; some species have pointed coriaceous shells, others 
enlarged and spiny tibiae. Every path in the forest is barricaded with 
the strong yellow web of a species, belonging to the same division 

8 In a MS. in the British Museum by Mr. Abbott, who made his observations in 
Georgia; see Mr. A. White's paper in the "Annals of Nat. Hist.," vol. vii. p. 472. 
Lieut. Hutton has described a sphex with similar habits in India, in the "Journal of 
the Asiatic Society," vol. i. p. 555. 

9 Don Felix Azara (vol. i. p. 175), mentioning a hymenopterous insect, probably 
of the same genus, says he saw it dragging a dead spider through tall grass, in a 
straight line to its nest, which was one hundred and sixty-three paces distant. He 
adds that the wasp, in order to find the road, every now and then made "demi-tours 
d 'environ trois palmes." 


with the Epeira clavipes of Fabricius, which was formerly said by 
Sloane to make, in the West Indies, webs so strong as to catch birds. 
A small and pretty kind of spider, with very long fore-legs, and 
which appears to belong to an undescribed genus, lives as a parasite 
on almost every one of these webs. I suppose it is too insignificant 
to be noticed by the great Epeira, and is therefore allowed to prey 
on the minute insects, which, adhering to the lines, would otherwise 
be wasted. When frightened, this little spider either feigns death 
by extending its front legs, or suddenly drops from the web. A 
large Epeira of the same division with Epeira tuberculata and conica 
is extremely common, especially in dry situations. Its web, which 
is generally placed among the great leaves of the common agave, 
is sometimes strengthened near the centre by a pair or even four 
zigzag ribbons, which connect two adjoining rays. When any large 
insect, as a grasshopper or wasp, is caught, the spider, by a dexterous 
movement, makes it revolve very rapidly, and at the same time 
emitting a band of threads from its spinners, soon envelops its prey 
in a case like the cocoon of a silkworm. The spider now examines 
the powerless victim, and gives the fatal bite on the hinder part of 
its thorax; then retreating, patiently waits till the poison has taken 
effect. The virulence of this poison may be judged of from the fact 
that in half a minute I opened the mesh, and found a large wasp 
quite lifeless. This Epeira always stands with its head downwards 
near the centre of the web. When disturbed, it acts differently 
according to circumstances: if there is a thicket below, it suddenly 
falls down; and I have distinctly seen the thread from the spin-ncrs 
lengthened by the animal while yet stationary, as preparatory to its 
fall. If the ground is clear beneath, the Epeira seldom falls, but 
moves quickly through a central passage from one to the other side. 
When still further disturbed, it practises a most curious manoeuvre: 
standing in the middle, it violently jerks the web, which is attached 
to elastic twigs, till at last the whole acquires such a rapid vibratory 
movement, that even the outline of the spider's body becomes 

It is well known that most of the British spiders, when a large 
insect is caught in their webs, endeavour to cut the lines and liberate 
their prey, to save their nets from being entirely spoiled. I once, 
however, saw in a hot-house in Shropshire a large female wasp 


caught in the irregular web of a quite small spider; and this spider t 
instead of cutting the web, most perseveringly continued to entangle 
the body, and especially the wings, of its prey. The wasp at first 
aimed in vain repeated thrusts with its sting at its little antagonist. 
Pitying the wasp, after allowing it to struggle for more than an 
hour, I killed it and put it back into the web. The spider soon 
returned; and an hour afterwards I was much surprised to find it 
with its jaws buried in the orifice, through which the sting is pro- 
truded by the living wasp. I drove the spider away two or three 
times, but for the next twenty-four hours I always found it again 
sucking at the same place. The spider became much distended by 
the juices of its prey, which was many times larger than itself. 

I may here just mention, that I found, near St. Fe Bajada, many 
large black spiders, with ruby-coloured marks on their backs, having 
gregarious habits. The webs were placed vertically, as is invariably 
the case with the genus Epeira : they were separated from each other 
by a space of about two feet, but were all attached to certain com- 
mon lines, which were of great length, and extended to all parts of 
the community. In this manner the tops of some large bushes were 
encompassed by the united nets. Azara 10 has described a gregarious 
spider in Paraguay, which Walckenaer thinks must be a Theridion, 
but probably it is an Epeira, and perhaps even the same species with 
mine. I cannot, however, recollect seeing a central nest as large as 
a hat, in which, during autumn, when the spiders die, Azara says 
the eggs are deposited. As all the spiders which I saw were of the 
same size, they must have been nearly of the same age. This gre- 
garious habit, in so typical a genus as Epeira, among insects, which 
are so bloodthirsty and solitary that even the two sexes attack each 
other, is a very singular fact. 

In a lofty valley of the Cordillera, near Mendoza, I found another 
spider with a singularly-formed web. Strong lines radiated in a 
vertical plane from a common centre, where the insect had its sta- 
tion; but only two of the rays were connected by a symmetrical 
mesh- work; so that the net, instead of being, as is generally the 
case, circular, consisted of a wedge-shaped segment. All the webs 
were similarly constructed. 

10 Azara's Voyage, vol. i. p. 213. 


Monte Video Maldonado Excursion to R. Polanco Lazo and Bolas 
Partridges Absence of Trees Deer Capybara, or River Hog Tucu- 
tuco Molothrus, cuckoo-like habits Tyrant-flycatcher Mocking-bird 
Carrion Hawks Tubes formed by Lightning House struck. 

yULY $th, 1832. In the morning we got under way, and stood 
out of the splendid harbour of Rio de Janeiro. In our passage 
to the Plata, we saw nothing particular, excepting on one day 
a great shoal of porpoises, many hundreds in number. The whole 
sea was in places furrowed by them; and a most extraordinary 
spectacle was presented, as hundreds, proceeding together by jumps, 
in which their whole bodies were exposed, thus cut the water. When 
the ship was running nine knots an hour, these animals could cross 
and recross the bows with the greatest ease, and then dash away 
right ahead. As soon as we entered the estuary of the Plata, the 
weather was very unsettled. One dark night we were surrounded 
by numerous seals and penguins, which made such strange noises, 
that the officer on watch reported he could hear the cattle bellowing 
on shore. On a second night we witnessed a splendid scene of 
natural fireworks; the mast-head and yard-arm-ends shone with St. 
Elmo's light; and the form of the vane could almost be traced, as if 
it had been rubbed with phosphorus. The sea was so highly lumi- 
nous, that the tracks of the penguins were marked by a fiery wake, 
and the darkness of the sky was momentarily illuminated by the 
most vivid lightning. 

When within the mouth of the river, I was interested by observing 
how slowly the waters of the sea and river mixed. The latter, muddy 
and discoloured, from its less specific gravity, floated on the surface 
of the salt water. This was curiously exhibited in the wake of the 
vessel, where a line of blue water was seen mingling in little eddies, 
with the adjoining fluid. 

July 26th. We anchored at Monte Video. The Beagle was em- 



ployed in surveying the extreme southern and eastern coasts of 
America, south of the Plata, during the two succeeding years. To 
prevent useless repetitions, I will extract those parts of my journal 
which refer to the same districts, without always attending to the 
order in which we visited them. 

MALDONADO is situated on the northern bank of the Plata, and not 
very far from the mouth of the estuary. It is a most quiet, forlorn, 
little town; built, as is universally the case in these countries, with 
the streets running at right angles to each other, a'nd having in the 
middle a large plaza or square, which, from its size, renders the 
scantiness of the population more evident. It possesses scarcely any 
trade; the exports being confined to a few hides and living cattle. 
The inhabitants are chiefly landowners, together with a few shop- 
keepers and the necessary tradesmen, such as blacksmiths and car- 
penters, who do nearly all the business for a circuit of fifty miles 
round. The town is separated from the river by a band of sand- 
hillocks, about a mile broad: it is surrounded, on all other sides, by 
an open slightly-undulating country, covered by one uniform layer 
of fine green turf, on which countless herds of cattle, sheep, and 
horses graze. There is very little land cultivated even close to the 
town. A few hedges, made of cacti and agave, mark out where some 
wheat or Indian corn has been planted. The features of the country 
are very similar along the whole northern bank of the Plata. The 
only difference is, that here the granitic hills are a little bolder. The 
scenery is very uninteresting; there is scarcely a house, an enclosed 
piece of ground, or even a tree, to give it an air of cheerfulness. Yet, 
after being imprisoned for some time in a ship, there is a charm in 
the unconfined feeling of walking over boundless plains of turf. 
Moreover, if your view is limited to a small space, many objects 
possess beauty. Some of the smaller birds are brilliantly coloured; 
and the bright green sward, browsed short by the cattle, is orna- 
mented by dwarf flowers, among which a plant, looking like the 
daisy, claimed the place of an old friend. What would a florist say 
to whole tracts, so thickly covered by the Verbena melindres, as, 
even at a distance, to appear of the most gaudy scarlet? 

I stayed ten weeks at Maldonado, in which time a nearly perfect 
collection of the animals, birds, and reptiles, was procured. Before 
making any observations respecting them, I will give an account of 


a little excursion I made as far as the river Polanco, which is about 
seventy miles distant, in a northerly direction. I may mention, as 
a proof how cheap everything is in this country, that I paid only 
two dollars a day, or eight shillings, for two men, together with a 
troop of about a dozen riding-horses. My companions were well 
armed with pistols and sabres; a precaution which I thought rather 
unnecessary; but the first piece of news we heard was, that, the day 
before, a traveller from Monte Video had been found dead on the 
road, with his throat cut. This happened close to a cross, the record 
of a former murder. 

On the first night we slept at a retired little country-house; and 
there I soon found out that I possessed two or three articles, especially 
a pocket compass, which created unbounded astonishment. In every 
house I was asked to show the compass, and by its aid, together with 
a map, to point out the direction of various places. It excited the 
liveliest admiration that I, a perfect stranger, should know the road 
(for direction and road are synonymous in this open country) to 
places where I had never been. At one house a young woman, who 
was ill in bed, sent to entreat me to come and show her the compass. 
If their surprise was great, mine was greater, to find such ignorance 
among people who possessed their thousands of cattle, and "estan- 
cias" of great extent. It can only be accounted for by the circum- 
stance that this retired part of the country is seldom visited by 
foreigners. I was asked whether the earth or sun 'moved; whether it 
was hotter or colder to the north; where Spain was, and many other 
such questions. The greater number of the inhabitants had an in- 
distinct idea that England, London, and North America, were 
different names for the same place; but the better informed well 
knew that London and North America were separate countries 
close together, and that England was a large town in London! I 
carried with me some promethean matches, which I ignited by 
biting; it was thought so wonderful that a man should strike fire 
with his teeth, that it was usual to collect the whole family to see 
it: I was once offered a dollar for a single one. Washing my face 
in the morning caused much speculation at the village of Las Minas; 
a superior tradesman closely cross-questioned me about so singular 
a practice; and likewise why on board we wore our beards; for he 
had heard from my guide that we did so. He eyed me with much 


suspicion; perhaps he had heard of ablutions in the Mahomedan 
religion, and knowing me to be a heretick, probably he came to the 
conclusion that all hereticks were Turks. It is the general custom in 
this country to ask for a night's lodging at the first convenient house. 
The astonishment at the compass, and my other feats of jugglery, 
was to a certain degree advantageous, as with that, and the long 
stories my guides told of my breaking stones, knowing venomous 
from harmless snakes, collecting insects, etc., I repaid them for their 
hospitality. I am writing as if I had been among the inhabitants of 
central Africa: Banda Oriental would not be flattered by the com- 
parison; but such were my feelings at the time. 

The next day we rode to the village of Las Minas. The country 
was rather more hilly, but otherwise continued the same; an in- 
habitant of the Pampas no doubt would have considered it as truly 
Alpine. The country is so thinly inhabited, that during the whole 
day we scarcely met a single person. Las Minas is much smaller 
even than Maldonado. It is seated on a little plain, and is surrounded 
by low rocky mountains. It is of the usual symmetrical form; and 
with its whitewashed church standing in the centre, had rather a 
pretty appearance. The outskirting houses rose out of the plain like 
isolated beings, without the accompaniment of gardens or court- 
yards. This is generally the case in the country, and all the houses 
have, in consequence, an uncomfortable aspect. At night we stopped 
at a pulperia, or drinking-shop. During the evening a great number 
of Gauchos came in to drink spirit and smoke cigars: their appear- 
ance is very striking; they are generally tall and handsome, but with 
a proud and dissolute expression of countenance. They frequently 
wear their moustaches and long black hair curling down their backs. 
With their brightly coloured garments, great spurs clanking about 
their heels, and knives stuck as daggers (and often so used) at their 
waists, they look a very different race of men from what might be 
expected from their name of Gauchos, or simple countrymen. Their 
politeness is excessive; they never drink their spirits without expect- 
ing you to taste it; but whilst making their exceedingly graceful 
bow, they seem quite as ready, if occasion offered, to cut your throat. 

On the third day we pursued rather an irregular course, as I was 
employed in examining some beds of marble. On the fine plains of 


turf we saw many ostriches (Struthio rhea). Some of the flocks 
contained as many as twenty or thirty birds. These, when stand- 
ing on any little eminence, and seen against the clear sky, pre- 
sented a very noble appearance. I never met with such tame os- 
triches in any other part of the country: it was easy to gallop up 
within a short distance of them; but then, expanding their wings, 
they made all sail right before the wind, and soon left the horse 

At night we came to the house of Don Juan Fuentes, a rich 
landed proprietor, but not personally known to either of my com- 
panions. On approaching the house of a stranger, it is usual to follow 
several little points of etiquette: riding up slowly to the door, the 
salutation of Ave Maria is given, and until somebody comes out 
and asks you to alight, it is not customary even to get off your horse : 
the formal answer of the owner is, "sin pecado concebida" that is, 
conceived without sin. Having entered the house, some general 
conversation is kept up for a few minutes, till permission is asked 
to pass the night there. This is granted as a matter of course. The 
stranger then takes his meals with the family, and a room is assigned 
him, where with the horsecloths belonging to his recado (or saddle 
of the Pampas) he makes his bed. It is curious how similar circum- 
stances produce such similar results in manners. At the Cape of 
Good Hope the same hospitality, and very nearly the same points 
of etiquette, are universally observed. The difference, however, be- 
tween the character of the Spaniard and that of the Dutch boer is 
shown, by the former never asking his guest a single question beyond 
the strictest rule of politeness, whilst the honest Dutchman demands 
where he has been, where he is going, what is his business, and even 
how many brothers, sisters, or children he may happen to have. 

Shortly after our arrival at Don Juan's, one of the largest herds 
of cattle was driven in towards the house, and three beasts were 
picked out to be slaughtered for the supply of the establishment. 
These half -wild cattle are very active; and knowing full well the 
fatal lazo, they led the horses a long and laborious chase. After 
witnessing the rude wealth displayed in the number of cattle, men, 
and horses, Don Juan's miserable house was quite curious. The 
floor consisted of hardened mud, and the windows were without 


glass; the sitting-room boasted only of a few of the roughest chairs 
and stools, with a couple of tables. The supper, although several 
strangers were present, consisted of two huge piles, one of roast 
beef, the other of boiled, with some pieces of pumpkin : besides this 
latter there was no other vegetable, and not even a morsel of bread. 
For drinking, a large earthenware jug of water served the whole 
party. Yet this man was the owner of several square miles of land, 
of which nearly every acre would produce corn, and, with a little 
trouble, all the common vegetables. The evening was spent in smok- 
ing, with a little impromptu singing, accompanied by the guitar. 
The signoritas all sat together in one corner of the room, and did 
not sup with the men. 

So many works have been written about these countries, that it 
is almost superfluous to describe either the lazo or the bolas. The 
lazo consists of a very strong, but thin, well-plaited rope, made of 
raw hide. One end is attached to the broad surcingle, which fastens 
together the complicated gear of the recado, or saddle used in the 
Pampas; the other is terminated by a small ring of iron or brass, by 
which a noose can be formed. The Gaucho, when he is going to 
use the lazo, keeps a small coil in his bridle-hand, and in the other 
holds the running noose, which is made very large, generally having 
a diameter of about eight feet. This he whirls round his head, and 
by the dexterous movement of his wrist keeps the noose open; then, 
throwing it, he causes it to fall on any particular spot he chooses. 
The lazo, when not used, is tied up in a small coil to the after part 
of the recado. The bolas, or balls, are of two kinds: the simplest, 
which is chiefly used for catching ostriches, consists of two round 
stones, covered with leather, and united by a thin plaited thong, 
about eight feet long. The other kind differs only in having three 
balls united by the thongs to a common centre. The Gaucho holds 
the smallest of the three in his hand, and whirls the other two round 
and round his head; then, taking aim, sends them like chain shot 
revolving through the air. The balls no sooner strike any object, 
than, winding round it, they cross each other, and become firmly 
hitched. The size and weight of the balls vary, according to the 
purpose for which they are made: when of stone, although not 
larger than an apple, they are sent with such force as sometimes to 
break the leg even of a horse. I have seen the balls made of wood, 


and as large as a turnip, for the sake of catching these animals with- 
out injuring them. The balls are sometimes made of iron, and these 
can be hurled to the greatest distance. The main difficulty in using 
either lazo or bolas is to ride so well as to be able at full speed, and 
while suddenly turning about, to whirl them so steadily round the 
head, as to take aim: on foot any person would soon learn the art. 
One day, as I was amusing myself by galloping and whirling the 
balls round my head, by accident the free one struck a bush; and its 
revolving motion being thus destroyed, it immediately fell to the 
ground, and, like magic, caught one hind leg of my horse; the other 
ball was then jerked out of my hand, and the horse fairly secured. 
Luckily he was an old practised animal, and knew what it meant; 
otherwise he would probably have kicked till he had thrown himself 
down. The Gauchos roared with laughter; they cried out that they 
had seen every sort of animal caught, but had never before seen a 
man caught by himself. 

During the two succeeding days, I reached the furthest point 
which I was anxious to examine. The country wore the same aspect, 
till at last the fine green turf became more wearisome than a dusty 
turnpike road. We everywhere saw great numbers of partridges 
(Nothura major). These birds do not go in coveys, nor do they 
conceal themselves like the English kind. It appears a very silly 
bird. A man on horseback by riding round and round in a circle, 
or rather in a spire, so as to approach closer each time, may knock 
on the head as many as he pleases. The more common method is 
to catch them with a running noose, or little lazo, made of the stem 
of an ostrich's feather, fastened to the end of a long stick. A boy on 
a quiet old horse will frequently thus catch thirty or forty in a day. 
In Arctic North America 1 the Indians catch the Varying Hare by 
walking spirally round and round it, when on its form: the middle 
of the day is reckoned the best time, when the sun is high, and the 
shadow of the hunter not very long. 

On our return to Maldonado, we followed rather a different line 
of road. Near Pan de Azucar, a landmark well known to all those 
who have sailed up the Plata, I stayed a day at the house of a most 
hospitable old Spaniard. Early in the morning we ascended the 
Sierra de las Animas. By the aid of the rising sun the scenery was 
1 Hearne's Journey, p. 383. 


almost picturesque. To the westward the view extended over an 
immense level plain as far as the Mount, at Monte Video, and to 
the eastward, over the mammillated country of Maldonado. On 
the summit of the mountain there were several small heaps of stones, 
which evidently had lain there for many years. My companion 
assured me that they were the work of the Indians in the old time. 
The heaps were similar, but on a much smaller scale, to those so 
commonly found on the mountains of Wales. The desire to sig- 
nalize any event, on the highest point of the neighbouring land, 
seems an universal passion with mankind. At the present day, not 
a single Indian, either civilized or wild, exists in this part of the 
province; nor am I aware that the former inhabitants have left 
behind them any more permanent records than these insignificant 
piles on the summit of the Sierra de las Animas. 

The general, and almost entire absence of trees in Banda Oriental 
is remarkable. Some of the rocky hills are partly covered by thickets, 
and on the banks of the larger streams, especially to the north of 
Las Minas, willow-trees are not uncommon. Near the Arroyo Tapes 
I heard of a wood of palms; and one of these trees, of considerable 
size, I saw near the Pan de Azucar, in lat. 35. These, and the trees 
planted by the Spaniards, offer the only exceptions to the general 
scarcity of wood. Among the introduced kinds may be enumerated 
poplars, olives, peach, and other fruit trees: the peaches succeed so 
well, that they afford the main supply of firewood to the city of 
Buenos Ayres. Extremely level countries, such as the Pampas, sel- 
dom appear favourable to the growth of trees. This may possibly 
be attributed either to the force of the winds, or the kind of drainage. 
In the nature of the land, however, around Maldonado, no such 
reason is apparent; the rocky mountains aflord protected situations, 
enjoying various kinds of soil; streamlets of water are common at 
the bottoms of nearly every valley; and the clayey nature of the earth 
seems adapted to retain moisture. It has been inferred with much 
probability, that the presence of woodland is generally determined 2 
by the annual amount of moisture; yet in this province abundant 
and heavy rain falls during the winter; and the summer, though dry, 
2 Maclaren, art. "America," Encyclop. Britann. 


is not so in any excessive degree. 3 We see nearly the whole of 
Australia covered by lofty trees, yet that country possesses a far more 
arid climate. Hence we must look to some other and unknown cause. 
Confining our view to South America, we should certainly be 
tempted to believe that trees flourished only under a very humid 
climate; for the limit of the forest-land follows, in a most remark- 
able manner, that of the damp winds. In the southern part of the 
continent, where the western gales, charged with moisture from the 
Pacific, prevail, every island on the broken west coast, from lat. 38 
to the extreme point of Tierra del Fuego, is densely covered by im- 
penetrable forests. On the eastern side of the Cordillera, over the 
same extent of latitude, where a blue sky and a fine climate prove 
that the atmosphere has been deprived of its moisture by passing 
over the mountains, the arid plains of Patagonia support a most 
scanty vegetation. In the more northern parts of the continent, 
within the limits of the constant south-eastern trade-wind, the eastern 
side is ornamented by magnificent forests; whilst the western coast, 
from lat. 4 S. to lat. 32 S., may be described as a desert; on this 
western coast, northward of lat. 4 S., where the trade- wind loses its 
regularity, and heavy torrents of rain fall periodically, the shores of 
the Pacific, so utterly desert in Peru, assume near Cape Blanco the 
character of luxuriance so celebrated at Guyaquil and Panama. 
Hence in the southern and northern parts of the continent, the forest 
and desert lands occupy reversed positions with respect to the Cor- 
dillera, and these positions are apparently determined by the direction 
of the prevalent winds. In the middle of the continent there is a 
broad intermediate band, including central Chile and the provinces 
of La Plata, where the rain-bringing winds have not to pass over 
lofty mountains, and where the land is neither a desert nor covered 
by forests. But even the rule, if confined to South America, of trees 
flourishing only in a climate rendered humid by rain-bearing winds, 
has a strongly marked exception in the case of the Falkland Islands. 
These islands, situated in the same latitude with Tierra del Fuego 
and only between two and three hundred miles distant from it, hav- 
ing a nearly similar climate, with a geological formation almost 

3 Azara says, "J e cr is que la quantite" annuelle des pluies est, dans toutes ces 
contrees, plus considerable qu'en Espagne." Vol. i. p. 36. 


identical, with favourable situations and the same kind of peaty 
soil, yet can boast of few plants deserving even the title of bushes; 
whilst in Tierra del Fuego it is impossible to find an acre of land 
not covered by the densest forest. In this case, both the direction of 
the heavy gales of wind and of the currents of the sea are favourable 
to the transport of seeds from Tierra del Fuego, as is shown by the 
canoes and trunks of trees drifted from that country, and frequently 
thrown on the shores of the Western Falkland. Hence perhaps it 
is, that there are many plants in common to the two countries: but 
with respect to the trees of Tierra del Fuego, even attempts made to 
transplant them have failed. 

During our stay at Maldonado I collected several quadrupeds, 
eighty kinds of birds, and many reptiles, including nine species of 
snakes. Of the indigenous mammalia, the only one now left of any 
size, which is common, is the Cervus campestris. This deer is ex- 
ceedingly abundant, often in small herds, throughout the countries 
bordering the Plata and in Northern Patagonia. If a person crawling 
close along the ground, slowly advances towards a herd, the deer 
frequently, out of curiosity, approach to reconnoitre him. I have by 
this means, killed from one spot, three out of the same herd. Al- 
though so tame and inquisitive, yet when approached on horseback, 
they are exceedingly wary. In this country nobody goes on foot, and 
the deer knows man as its enemy only when he is mounted and 
armed with the bolas. At Bahia Blanca, a recent establishment in 
Northern Patagonia, I was surprised to find how little the deer 
cared for the noise of a gun: one day I fired ten times from within 
eighty yards at one animal; and it was much more startled at the 
ball cutting up the ground than at the report of the rifle. My powder 
being exhausted, I was obliged to get up (to my shame as a sports- 
man be it spoken, though well able to kill birds on the wing) and 
halloo till the deer ran away. 

The most curious fact with respect to this animal, is the over- 
poweringly strong and offensive odour which proceeds from the 
buck. It is quite indescribable: several times whilst skinning the 
specimen which is now mounted at the Zoological Museum, I was 
almost overcome by nausea. I tied up the skin in a silk pocket- 
handkerchief, and so carried it home: this handkerchief, after being 


well washed, I continually used, and it was of course as repeatedly 
washed; yet every time, for a space of one year and seven months, 
when first unfolded, I distinctly perceived the odour. This appears 
an astonishing instance of the permanence of some matter, which 
nevertheless in its nature must be most subtile and volatile. Fre- 
quently, when passing at the distance of half a mile to leeward of a 
herd, I have perceived the whole air tainted with the effluvium. I 
believe the smell from the buck is most powerful at the period when 
its horns are perfect, or free from the hairy skin. When in this state 
the meat is, of course, quite uneatable; but the Gauchos assert, that 
if buried for some time in fresh earth, the taint is removed. I have 
somewhere read that the islanders in the north of Scotland treat the 
rank carcasses of the fish-eating birds in the same manner. 

The order Rodentia is here very numerous in species: of mice 
alone I obtained no less than eight kinds. 4 The largest gnawing 
animal in the world, the Hydrochaerus capybara (the water-hog), 
is here also common. One which I shot at Monte Video weighed 
ninety-eight pounds: its length, from the end of the snout to the 
stump-like tail, was three feet two inches; and its girth three feet 
eight. These great Rodents occasionally frequent the islands in the 
mouth of the Plata, where the water is quite salt, but are far more 
abundant on the borders of fresh-water lakes and rivers. Near 
Maldonado three or four generally live together. In the daytime they 
either lie among the aquatic plants, or openly feed on the turf plain. 5 
When viewed at a distance, from their manner of walking and 
colour they resemble pigs: but when seated on their haunches, and 
attentively watching any object with one eye, they reassume the 
appearance of their congeners, cavies and rabbits. Both the front 
and side view of their head has quite a ludicrous aspect, from the 

4 In South America I collected altogether twenty-seven species of mice, and 
thirteen more are known from the works of Azara and other authors. Those 
collected by myself have been named and described by Mr. Waterhouse at the 
meetings of the Zoological Society. I must be allowed to take this opportunity of 
returning my cordial thanks to Mr. Waterhouse, and to the other gentlemen attached 
to that Society, for their kind and most liberal assistance on all occasions. 

5 In the stomach and duodenum of a capybara which I opened I found a very 
large quantity of a thin yellowish fluid, in which scarcely a fibre could be dis- 
tinguished. Mr. Owen informs me that a part of the oesophagus is so constructed 
that nothing much larger than a crowquill can be passed down. Certainly the broad 
teeth and strong jaws of this animal are well fitted to grind into pulp the aquatic 
plants on which it feeds. 


great depth of their jaw. These animals, at Maldonado, were very 
tame; by cautiously walking, I approached within three yards of 
four old ones. This tameness may probably be accounted for, by the 
Jaguar having been banished for some years, and by the Gaucho 
not thinking it worth his while to hunt them. As I approached 
nearer and nearer they frequently made their peculiar noise, which 
is a low abrupt grunt, not having much actual sound, but rather 
arising from the sudden expulsion of air: the only noise I know at 
all like it, is the first hoarse bark of a large dog. Having watched 
the four from almost within arm's length (and they me) for several 
minutes, they rushed into the water at full gallop with the greatest 
impetuosity, and emitted at the same time their bark. After diving 
a short distance they came again to the surface, but only just showed 
the upper part of their heads. When the female is swimming in 
the water, and has young ones, they are said to sit on her back. 
These animals are easily killed in numbers; but their skins are of 
trifling value, and the meat is very indifferent. On the islands in the 
Rio Parana they are exceedingly abundant, and afford the ordinary 
prey to the Jaguar. 

The Tucutuco (Ctenomys Brasiliensis) is a curious small animal, 
which may be briefly described as a Gnawer, with the habits of a 
mole. It is extremely numerous in some parts of the country, but it 
is difficult to be procured, and never, I believe, comes out of the 
ground. It throws up at the mouth of its burrows hillocks of earth 
like those of the mole, but smaller. Considerable tracts of country 
are so completely undermined by these animals, that horses in pass- 
ing over, sink above their fetlocks. The tucutucos appear, to a cer- 
tain degree, to be gregarious: the man who procured the specimens 
for me had caught six together, and he said this was a common 
occurrence. They are nocturnal in their habits; and their principal 
food is the roots of plants, which are the object of their extensive and 
superficial burrows. This animal is universally known by a very 
peculiar noise which it makes when beneath the ground. A person, 
the first time he hears it, is much surprised; for it is not easy to tell 
whence it comes, nor is it possible to guess what kind of creature 
utters it. The noise consists in a short, but not rough, nasal grunt, 
which is monotonously repeated about four times in quick succes- 


sion: 6 the name Tucutuco is given in imitation of the sound. Where 
this animal is abundant, it may be heard at all times of the day, and 
sometimes directly beneath one's feet. When kept in a room, the 
tucutucos move both slowly and clumsily, which appears owing to 
the outward action of their hind legs; and they are quite incapable, 
from the socket of the thigh-bone not having a certain ligament, 
of jumping even the smallest vertical height. They are very stupid 
in making any attempt to escape; when angry or frightened they 
utter the tucutuco. Of those I kept alive several, even the first day, 
became quite tame, not attempting to bite or to run away; others 
were a little wilder. 

The man who caught them asserted that very many are invariably 
found blind. A specimen which I preserved in spirits was in this 
state; Mr. Reid considers it to be the effect of inflammation in the 
nictitating membrane. When the animal was alive I placed my 
finger within half an inch of its head, and not the slightest notice 
was taken : it made its way, however, about the room nearly as well 
as the others. Considering the strictly subterranean habits of the 
tucutuco, the blindness, though so common, cannot be a very serious 
evil; yet it appears strange that any animal should possess an organ 
frequently subject to be injured. Lamarck would have been delighted 
with this fact, had he known it, when speculating 7 (probably with 
more truth than usual with him) on the gradually acquired blind- 
ness of the Asphalax, a Gnawer living under ground, and of the 
Proteus, a reptile living in dark caverns filled with water; in both 
of which animals the eye is in an almost rudimentary state, and is 
covered by a tendinous membrane and skin. In the common mole 
the eye is extraordinarily small but perfect, though many anatomists 
doubt whether it is connected with the true optic nerve; its vision 
must certainly be imperfect, though probably useful to the animal 
when it leaves its burrow. In the tucutuco, which I believe never 
comes to the surface of the ground, the eye is rather larger, but often 

6 At the R. Negro, in Northern Patagonia, there is an animal of the same habits, 
and probably a closely allied species, but which I never saw. Its noise is different 
from that of the Maldonado kind; it is repeated only twice instead of three or four 
times, and is more distinct and sonorous; when heard from a distance it so closely 
resembles the sound made in cutting down a small tree with an axe, that I have 
sometimes remained in doubt concerning it. 

7 Philosoph. Zoolog., torn. i. p. 242. 


rendered blind and useless, though without apparently causing any 
inconvenience to the animal; no doubt Lamarck would have said 
that the tucutuco is now passing into the state of the Asphalax and 

Birds of many kinds are extremely abundant on the undulating 
grassy plains around Maldonado. There are several species of a 
family allied in structure and manners to our Starling: one of these 
(Molothrus niger) is remarkable from its habits. Several may 
often be seen standing together on the back of a cow or horse; 
and while perched on a hedge, pluming themselves in the sun, they 
sometimes attempt to sing, or rather to hiss; the noise being very 
peculiar, resembling that of bubbles of air passing rapidly from a 
small orifice under water, so as to produce an acute sound. Accord- 
ing to Azara, this bird, like the cuckoo, deposits its eggs in other 
birds' nests. I was several times told by the country people that there 
certainly is some bird having this habit; and my assistant in collect- 
ing, who is a very accurate person, found a nest of the sparrow of 
this country (Zonotrichia matutina), with one egg in it larger than 
the others, and of a different colour and shape. In North America 
there is another species of Molothrus (M. pecoris), which has a 
similar cuckoo-like habit, and which is most closely allied in every 
respect to the species from the Plata, even in such trifling peculiarities 
as standing on the backs of cattle; it differs only in being a little 
smaller, and in its plumage and eggs being of a slightly different 
shade of colour. This close agreement in structure and habits, in 
representative species coming from opposite quarters of a great 
continent, always strikes one as interesting, though of common 

Mr. Swainson has well remarked, 8 that with the exception of the 
Molothrus pecoris, to which must be added the M. niger, the cuckoos 
are the only birds which can be called truly parasitical; namely, such 
as "fasten themselves, as it were, on another living animal, whose 
animal heat brings their young into life, whose food they live upon, 
and whose death would cause theirs during the period of infancy." 
It is remarkable that some of the species, but not all, both of the 
Cuckoo and Molothrus, should agree in this one strange habit of 
their parasitical propagation, whilst opposed to each other in almost 

Magazine of Zoology and Botany, vol. i. p. 217. 


every other habit: the molothrus, like our starling, is eminently 
sociable, and lives on the open plains without art or disguise: the 
cuckoo, as every one knows, is a singularly shy bird; it frequents 
the most retired thickets, and feeds on fruit and caterpillars. In 
structure also these two genera are widely removed from each other. 
Many theories, even phrenological theories, have been advanced to 
explain the origin of the cuckoo laying its eggs in other birds' nests. 
M. Prevost alone, I think, has thrown light by his observations 9 on 
this puzzle: he finds that the female cuckoo, which, according to 
most observers, lays at least from four to six eggs, must pair with 
the male each time after laying only one or two eggs. Now, if the 
cuckoo was obliged to sit on her own eggs, she would either have 
to sit on all together, and therefore leave those first laid so long, that 
they probably would become addled; or she would have to hatch 
separately each egg, or two eggs, as soon as laid: but as the cuckoo 
stays a shorter time in this country than any other migratory bird, 
she certainly would not have time enough for the successive hatch- 
ings. Hence we can perceive in the fact of the cuckoo pairing several 
times, and laying her eggs at intervals, the cause of her depositing 
her eggs in other birds' nests, and leaving them to the care of foster- 
parents. I am strongly inclined to believe that this view is correct, 
from having been independently led (as we shall hereafter see) to 
an analogous conclusion with regard to the South American ostrich, 
the females of which are parasitical, if I may so express it, on each 
other; each female laying several eggs in the nests of several other 
females, and the male ostrich undertaking all the cares of incubation, 
like the strange foster-parents with the cuckoo. 

I will mention only two other birds, which are very common, and 
render themselves prominent from their habits. The Saurophagus 
sulphuratus is typical of the great American tribe of tyrant-flycatch- 
ers. In its structure it closely approaches the true shrikes, but in its 
habits may be compared to many birds. I have frequently observed 
it, hunting a field, hovering over one spot like a hawk, and then 
proceeding on to another. When seen thus suspended in the air, it 
might very readily at a short distance be mistaken for one of the 
Rapacious order; its stoop, however, is very inferior in force and 
rapidity to that of a hawk. At other times the Saurophagus haunts 

9 Read before the Academy of Sciences in Paris. L'Institut, 1834, p. 418. 


the neighbourhood of water, and there, like a kingfisher, remaining 
stationary, it catches any small fish which may come near the margin. 
These birds are not unfrequently kept either in cages or in court- 
yards, with their wings cut. They soon become tame, and are very 
amusing from their cunning odd manners, which were described 
to me as being similar to those of the common magpie. Their flight 
is undulatory, for the weight of the head and bill appears too great 
for the body. In the evening the Saurophagus takes its stand on a 
bush, often by the roadside, and continually repeats without a change 
a shrill and rather agreeable cry, which somewhat resembles articu- 
late words: the Spaniards say it is like the words "Bien te veo" 
(I see you well), and accordingly have given it this name. 

A mocking-bird (Mimus orpheus), called by the inhabitants 
Calandria, is remarkable, from possessing a song far superior to 
that of any other bird in the country: indeed, it is nearly the only 
bird in South America which I have observed to take its stand for 
the purpose of singing. The song may be compared to that of the 
Sedge warbler, but is more powerful; some harsh notes and some 
very high ones, being mingled with a pleasant warbling. It is heard 
only during the spring. At other times its cry is harsh and far from 
harmonious. Near Maldonado these birds were tame and bold; 
they constantly attended the country houses in numbers, to pick the 
meat which was hung up on the posts or walls: if any other small 
bird joined the feast, the Calandria soon chased it away. On the 
wide uninhabited plains of Patagonia another closely allied species, 
O. Patagonica of d'Orbigny, which frequents the valleys clothed 
with spiny bushes, is a wilder bird, and has a slightly different tone 
of voice. It appears to me a curious circumstance, as showing the 
fine shades of difference in habits, that judging from this latter 
respect alone, when I first saw this second species, I thought it was 
different from the Maldonado kind. Having afterwards procured a 
specimen, and comparing the two without particular care, they 
appeared so very similar, that I changed my opinion; but now Mr. 
Gould says that they are certainly distinct; a conclusion in con- 
formity with the trifling difference of habit, of which, of course, he 
was not aware. 

The number, tameness, and disgusting habits of the carrion-feed- 


ing hawks of South America make them pre-eminently striking to 
any one accustomed only to the birds of Northern Europe. In this 
list may be included four species of the Caracara or Polyborus, the 
Turkey buzzard, the Gallinazo, and the Condor. The Caracaras 
are, from their structure, placed among the eagles: we shall soon 
see how ill they become so high a rank. In their habits they well 
supply the place of our carrion-crows, magpies, and ravens; a tribe 
of birds widely distributed over the rest of the world, but entirely 
absent in South America. To begin with the Polyborus Brasiliensis : 
this is a common bird, and has a wide geographical range; it is 
most numerous on the grassy savannahs of La Plata (where it goes 
by the name of Carrancha), and is far from unfrequent throughout 
the sterile plains of Patagonia. In the desert between the rivers 
Negro and Colorado, numbers constantly attend the line of road to 
devour the carcasses of the exhausted animals which chance to perish 
from fatigue and thirst. Although thus common in these dry and 
open countries, and likewise on the arid shores of the Pacific, it is 
nevertheless found inhabiting the damp impervious forests of West 
Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. The Carranchas, together with 
the Chimango, constantly attend in numbers the estancias and 
slaughtering-houses. If an animal dies on the plain the Gallinazo 
commences the feast, and then the two species of Polyborus pick 
the bones clean. These birds, although thus commonly feeding 
together, are far from being friends. When the Carrancha is quietly 
seated on the branch of a tree or on the ground, the Chimango often 
continues for a long time flying backwards and forwards, up and 
down, in a semicircle, trying each time at the bottom of the curve 
to strike its larger relative. The Carrancha takes little notice, except 
by bobbing its head. Although the Carranchas frequently assemble 
in numbers, they are not gregarious; for in desert places they may 
be seen solitary, or more commonly by pairs. 

The Carranchas are said to be very crafty, and to steal great num- 
bers of eggs. They attempt, also, together with the Chimango, to 
pick of? the scabs from the sore backs of horses and mules. The 
poor animal, on the one hand, with its ears down and its back 
arched; and, on the other, the hovering bird, eyeing at the distance 
of a yard the disgusting morsel, form a picture, which has been 


described by Captain Head with his own peculiar spirit and ac- 
curacy. These false eagles most rarely kill any living bird or animal; 
and their vulture-like, necrophagous habits are very evident to any 
one who has fallen asleep on the desolate plains of Patagonia, for 
when he wakes, he will see, on each surrounding hillock, one of 
these birds patiently watching him with an evil eye: it is a feature 
in the landscape of these countries, which will be recognised by 
every one who has wandered over them. If a party of men go out 
hunting with dogs and horses, they will be accompanied, during 
the day, by several of these attendants. After feeding, the uncovered 
craw protrudes; at such times, and indeed generally, the Carrancha 
is an inactive, tame, and cowardly bird. Its flight is heavy and slow, 
like that of an English rook. It seldom soars; but I have twice seen 
one at a great height gliding through the air with much ease. It 
runs (in contradistinction to hopping), but not quite so quickly as 
some of its congeners. At times the Carrancha is noisy, but is not 
generally so: its cry is loud, very harsh and peculiar, and may be 
likened to the sound of the Spanish guttural g, followed by a rough 
double r r; when uttering this cry it elevates its head higher and 
higher, till at last, with its beak wide open, the crown almost touches 
the lower part of the back. This fact, which has been doubted, is 
quite true; I have seen them several times with their heads back- 
wards in a completely inverted position. To these observations I 
may add, on the high authority of Azara, that the Carrancha feeds 
on worms, shells, slugs, grasshoppers, and frogs; that it destroys 
young lambs by tearing the umbilical cord; and that it pursues the 
Gallinazo, till that bird is compelled to vomit up the carrion it may 
have recently gorged. Lastly, Azara states that several Carranchas, 
five or six together, will unite in chase of large birds, even such as 
herons. All these facts show that it is a bird of very versatile habits 
and considerable ingenuity. 

The Polyborus Chimango is considerably smaller than the last 
species. It is truly omnivorous, and will eat even bread; and I was 
assured that it materially injures the potato crops in Chiloe, by 
stocking up the roots when first planted. Of all the carrion-feeders 
it is generally the last which leaves the skeleton of a dead animal, 
and may often be seen within the ribs of a cow or horse, like a bird 


in a cage. Another species is the Polyborus Novae Zelandiae, which 
is exceedingly common in the Falkland Islands. These birds in many 
respects resemble in their habits the Carranchas. They live on the 
flesh of dead animals and on marine productions; and on the 
Ramirez rocks their whole sustenance must depend on the sea. 
They are extraordinarily tame and fearless, and haunt the neighbor- 
hood of houses for offal. If a hunting party kills an animal, a num- 
ber soon collect and patiently await, standing on the ground on all 
sides. After eating, their uncovered craws are largely protruded, 
giving them a disgusting appearance. They readily attack wounded 
birds: a cormorant in this state having taken to the shore, was im- 
mediately seized on by several, and its death hastened by their blows. 
The Beagle was at the Falklands only during the summer, but the 
officers of the Adventure, who were there in the winter, mention 
many extraordinary instances of the boldness and rapacity of these 
birds. They actually pounced on a dog that was lying fast asleep 
close by one of the party; and the sportsmen had difficulty in pre- 
venting the wounded geese from being seized before their eyes. It 
is said that several together (in this respect resembling the Car- 
ranchas) wait at the mouth of a rabbit-hole, and together seize on 
the animal when it comes out. They were constantly flying on board 
the vessel when in the harbour; and it was necessary to keep a good 
look out to prevent the leather being torn from the rigging, and the 
meat or game from the stern. These birds are very mischievous and 
inquisitive; they will pick up almost anything from the ground; a 
large black glazed hat was carried nearly a mile, as was a pair of 
the heavy balls used in catching cattle. Mr. Usborne experienced 
during the survey a more severe loss, in their stealing a small Kater's 
compass in a red morocco leather case, which was never recovered. 
These birds are, moreover, quarrelsome and very passionate; tearing 
up the grass with their bills from rage. They are not truly grega- 
rious; they do not soar, and their flight is heavy and clumsy; on the 
ground they run extremely fast, very much like pheasants. They 
are noisy, uttering several harsh cries, one of which is like that of 
the English rook; hence the sealers always call them rooks. It is a 
curious circumstance that, when crying out, they throw their heads 
upwards and backwards, after the same manner as the Carrancha. 


They build in the rocky cliffs of the sea-coast, but only on the 
small adjoining islets, and not on the two main islands: this is a 
singular precaution in so tame and fearless a bird. The sealers say 
that the flesh of these birds, when cooked, is quite white, and 
very good eating; but bold must the man be who attempts such 
a meal. 

We have now only to mention the turkey-buzzard (Vultur aura), 
and the Gallinazo. The former is found wherever the country is 
moderately damp, from Cape Horn to North America. Differently 
from the Polyborus Brasiliensis and Chimango, it has found its way 
to the Falkland Islands. The turkey-buzzard is a solitary bird, or 
at most goes in pairs. It may at once be recognized from a long 
distance, by its lofty, soaring, and most elegant flight. It is well 
known to be a true carrion-feeder. On the west coast of Patagonia, 
among the thickly-wooded islets and broken land, it lives exclusively 
on what the sea throws up, and on the carcasses of dead seals. Wher- 
ever these animals are congregated on the rocks, there the vultures 
may be seen. The Gallinazo (Cathartes atratus) has a different range 
from the last species, as it never occurs southward of lat. 41. Azara 
states that there exists a tradition that these birds, at the time of the 
conquest were not found near Monte Video, but that they subse- 
quently followed the inhabitants from more northern districts. At 
the present day they are numerous in the valley of the Colorado, 
which is three hundred miles due south of Monte Video. It seems 
probable that this additional migration has happened since the time 
of Azara. The Gallinazo generally prefers a humid climate, or 
rather the neighbourhood of fresh water; hence it is extremely 
abundant in Brazil and La Plata, while it is never found on the 
desert and arid plains of Northern Patagonia, excepting near some 
stream. These birds frequent the whole Pampas to the foot of the 
Cordillera, but I never saw or heard of one in Chile; in Peru they 
are preserved as scavengers. These vultures certainly may be called 
gregarious, for they seem to have pleasure in society, and are not 
solely brought together by the attraction of a common prey. On a 
fine day a flock may often be observed at a great height, each bird 
wheeling round and round without closing its wings, in the most 
graceful evolutions. This is clearly performed for the mere pleasure 


of the exercise, or perhaps is connected with their matrimonial 

I have now mentioned all the carrion-feeders, excepting the con- 
dor, an account of which will be more appropriately introduced 
when we visit a country more congenial to its habits than the plains 
of La Plata. 

In a broad band of sand-hillocks which separate the Laguna del 
Potrero from the shores of the Plata, at the distance of a few miles 
from Maldonado, I found a group of those vitrified, siliceous tubes, 
which are formed by lightning entering loose sand. These tubes 
resemble in every particular those from Drigg in Cumberland, de- 
scribed in the Geological Transactions. 10 The sand-hillocks of 
Maldonado, not being protected by vegetation, are constantly chang- 
ing their position. From this cause the tubes projected above the 
surface, and numerous fragments lying near, showed that they had 
formerly been buried to a greater depth. Four sets entered the sand 
perpendicularly: by working with my hands I traced one of them 
two feet deep; and some fragments which evidently had belonged 
to the same tube, when added to the other part, measured five feet 
three inches. The diameter of the whole tube was nearly equal, and 
therefore we must suppose that originally it extended to a much 
greater depth. These dimensions are however small, compared to 
those of the tubes from Drigg, one of which was traced to a depth 
of not less than thirty feet. 

The internal surface is completely vitrified, glossy, and smooth. 
A small fragment examined under the microscope appeared, from 
the number of minute entangled air or perhaps steam bubbles, like 
an assay fused before the blowpipe. The sand is entirely, or in 
greater part, siliceous; but some points are of a black colour, and 
from their glossy surface possess a metallic lustre. The thickness of 
the wall of the tube varies from a thirtieth to a twentieth of an inch, 
and occasionally even equals a tenth. On the outside the grains of 
sand are rounded, and have a slightly glazed appearance: I could 

10 Geolog. Transact., vol. ii. p. 528. In the Philosoph. Transact. (1790, p. 294) 
Dr. Priestley has described some imperfect siliceous tubes and a melted pebble of 
quartz, found in digging into the ground, under a tree, where a man had been 
killed by lightning. 


not distinguish any signs of crystallization. In a similar manner to 
that described in the Geological Transactions, the tubes are gen- 
erally compressed, and have deep longitudinal furrows, so as closely 
to resemble a shrivelled vegetable stalk, or the bark of the elm or 
cork tree. Their circumference is about two inches, but in some 
fragments, which are cylindrical and without any furrows, it is as 
much as four inches. The compression from the surrounding loose 
sand, acting while the tube was still softened from the effects of the 
intense heat, has evidently caused the creases or furrows. Judging 
from the uncompressed fragments, the measure or bore of the light- 
ning (if such a term may be used) must have been about one inch 
and a quarter. At Paris, M. Hachette and M. Beudant 11 succeeded 
in making tubes, in most respects similar to these fulgurites, by 
passing very strong shocks of galvanism through finely-powdered 
glass: when salt was added, so as to increase its fusibility, the tubes 
were larger in every dimension. They failed both with powdered 
felspar and quartz. One tube, formed with pounded glass, was very 
nearly an inch long, namely .982, and had an internal diameter of 
.019 of an inch. When we hear that the strongest battery in Paris 
was used, and that its power on a substance of such easy fusibility 
as glass was to form tubes so diminutive, we must feel greatly 
astonished at the force of a shock of lightning, which, striking the 
sand in several places, has formed cylinders, in one instance of at 
least thirty feet long, and having an internal bore, where not com- 
pressed, of full an inch and a half; and this in a material so extraor- 
dinarily refractory as quartz! 

The tubes, as I have already remarked, enter the sand nearly in a 
vertical direction. One, however, which was less regular than the 
others, deviated from a right line, at the most considerable bend, to 
the amount of thirty-three degrees. From this same tube, two small 
branches, about a foot apart, were sent off; one pointed downwards, 
and the other upwards. This latter case is remarkable, as the elec- 
tric fluid must have turned back at the acute angle of 26, to the 
line of its main course. Besides the four tubes which I found vertical, 
and traced beneath the surface, there were several other groups of 
fragments, the original sites of which without doubt were near. All 

11 Annals de Chimie et de Physique, torn, xxxvii. p. 319. 


occurred in a level area of shifting sand, sixty yards by twenty, 
situated among some high sand-hillocks, and at the distance of 
about half a mile from a chain of hills four or five hundred feet in 
height. The most remarkable circumstance, as it appears to me, in 
this case as well as in that of Drigg, and in one described by M. 
Ribbentrop in Germany, is the number of tubes found within such 
limited spaces. At Drigg, within an area of fifteen yards, three were 
observed, and the same number occurred in Germany. In the case 
which I have described, certainly more than four existed within the 
space of the sixty by twenty yards. As it does not appear probable 
that the tubes are produced by successive distinct shocks, we must 
believe that the lightning, shortly before entering the ground, divides 
itself into separate branches. 

The neighbourhood of the Rio Plata seems peculiarly subject to 
electric phenomena. In the year I793, 12 one of the most destructive 
thunderstorms perhaps on record happened at Buenos Ayres: thirty- 
seven places within the city were struck by lightning, and nineteen 
people killed. From facts stated in several books of travels, I am 
inclined to suspect that thunderstorms are very common near the 
mouths of great rivers. Is it not possible that the mixture of large 
bodies of fresh and salt water may disturb the electrical equilibrium ? 
Even during our occasional visits to this part of South America, we 
heard of a ship, two churches, and a house having been struck. Both 
the church and the house I saw shortly afterwards: the house be- 
longed to Mr. Hood, the consul-general at Monte Video. Some of 
the effects were curious: the paper, for nearly a foot on each side of 
the line where the bell-wires had run, was blackened. The metal 
had been fused, and although the room was about fifteen feet high, 
the globules, dropping on the chairs and furniture, had drilled in 
them a chain of minute holes. A part of the wall was shattered, as 
if by gunpowder, and the fragments had been blown off with force 
sufficient to dent the wall on the opposite side of the room. The 
frame of a looking-glass was blackened, and the gilding must have 
been volatilized, for a smelling-bottle, which stood on the chimney- 
piece, was coated with bright metallic particles, which adhered as 
firmly as if they had been enamelled. 

12 Azara's Voyage, vol. i. p. 36. 


Rio Negro Estancias attacked by the Indians Salt-Lakes Flamingoes 
R. Negro to R. Colorado Sacred Tree Patagonian Hare Indian 
Families General Rosas Proceed to Bahia Blanca Sand Dunes 
Negro Lieutenant Bahia Blanca Saline Incrustations Punta Alta 

/ULY 24th, 1833. The Beagle sailed from Maldonado, and on 
August the 3rd she arrived off the mouth of the Rio Negro. 
This is the principal river on the whole line of coast between 
the Strait of Magellan and the Plata. It enters the sea about three 
hundred miles south of the estuary of the Plata. About fifty years 
ago, under the old Spanish government, a small colony was estab- 
lished here; and it is still the most southern position (lat. 41) on 
this eastern coast of America inhabited by civilized man. 

The country near the mouth of the river is wretched in the ex- 
treme: on the south side a long line of perpendicular cliffs com- 
mences, which exposes a section of the geological nature of the 
country. The strata are of sandstone, and one layer was remarkable 
from being composed of a firmly-cemented conglomerate of pumice 
pebbles, which must have travelled more than four hundred miles, 
from the Andes. The surface is everywhere covered up by a thick 
bed of gravel, which extends far and wide over the open plain. 
Water is extremely scarce, and, where found, is almost invariably 
brackish. The vegetation is scanty; and although there are bushes 
of many kinds, all are armed with formidable thorns, which seem 
to warn the stranger not to enter on these inhospitable regions. 

The settlement is situated eighteen miles up the river. The road 
follows the foot of the sloping cliff, which forms the northern bound- 
ary of the great valley, in which the Rio Negro flows. On the way 
we passed the ruins of some fine "estancias," which a few years 
since had been destroyed by the Indians. They withstood several 
attacks. A man present at one gave me a very lively description of 



what took place. The inhabitants had sufficient notice to drive all 
the cattle and horses into the "corral" * which surrounded the house, 
and likewise to mount some small cannon. The Indians were 
Araucanians from the south of Chile; several hundreds in number, 
and highly disciplined. They first appeared in two bodies on a 
neighbouring hill; having there dismounted, and taken off their 
fur mantles, they advanced naked to the charge. The only weapon 
of an Indian is a very long bamboo or chuzo, ornamented with 
ostrich feathers, and pointed by a sharp spearhead. My informer 
seemed to remember with the greatest horror the quivering of these 
chuzos as they approached near. When close, the cacique Pincheira 
hailed the besieged to give up their arms, or he would cut all their 
throats. As this would probably have been the result of their en- 
trance under any circumstances, the answer was given by a volley 
of musketry. The Indians, with great steadiness, came to the very 
fence of the corral: but to their surprise they found the posts 
fastened together by iron nails instead of leather thongs, and, of 
course, in vain attempted to cut them with their knives. This saved 
the lives of the Christians : many of the wounded Indians were car- 
ried away by their companions, and at last, one of the under caciques 
being wounded, the bugle sounded a retreat. They retired to their 
horses, and seemed to hold a council of war. This was an awful 
pause for the Spaniards, as all their ammunition, with the exception 
of a few cartridges, was expended. In an instant the Indians mounted 
their horses, and galloped out of sight. Another attack was still more 
quickly repulsed. A cool Frenchman managed the gun; he stopped 
till the Indians approached close, and then raked their line with 
grape-shot: he thus laid thirty-nine of them on the ground; and, of 
course, such a blow immediately routed the whole party. 

The town is indifferently called El Carmen or Patagones. It is 
built on the face of a cliff which fronts the river, and many of the 
houses are excavated even in the sandstone. The river is about two 
or three hundred yards wide, and is deep and rapid. The many 
islands, with their willow-trees, and the flat headlands, seen one 
behind the other on the northern boundary of the broad green valley, 

1 The corral is an enclosure made of tall and strong stakes. Every estancia, or 
farming estate, has one attached to it. 


form, by the aid of a bright sun, a view almost picturesque. The 
number of inhabitants does not exceed a few hundreds. These 
Spanish colonies do not, like our British ones, carry within them- 
selves the elements of growth. Many Indians of pure blood reside 
here: the tribe of the Cacique Lucanee constantly have their Toldos 2 
on the outskirts of the town. The local government partly supplies 
them with provisions, by giving them all the old worn-out horses, 
and they earn a little by making horse-rugs and other articles of 
riding-gear. These Indians are considered civilized; but what their 
character may have gained by a lesser degree of ferocity, is almost 
counterbalanced by their entire immorality. Some of the younger 
men are, however, improving; they are willing to labour, and a 
short time since a party went on a sealing-voyage, and behaved very 
well. They were now enjoying the fruits of their labour, by being 
dressed in very gay, clean clothes, and by being very idle. The taste 
they showed in their dress was admirable; if you could have turned 
one of these young Indians into a statue of bronze, his drapery 
would have been perfectly graceful. 

One day I rode to a large salt-lake, or Salina, which is distant 
fifteen miles from the town. During the winter it consists of a 
shallow lake of brine, which in summer is converted into a field of 
snow-white salt. The layer near the margin is from four to five 
inches thick, but towards the centre its thickness increases. This lake 
was two and a half miles long, and one broad. Others occur in the 
neighbourhood many times larger, and with a floor of salt, two and 
three feet in thickness, even when under water during the winter. 
One of these brilliantly white and level expanses, in the midst of 
the brown and desolate plain, offers an extraordinary spectacle. A 
large quantity of salt is annually drawn from the salina: and great 
piles, some hundred tons in weight, were lying ready for exportation. 
The season for working the salinas forms the harvest of Patagones; 
for on it the prosperity of the place depends. Nearly the whole 
population encamps on the bank of the river, and the people are 
employed in drawing out the salt in bullock-waggons. This salt is 
crystallized in great cubes, and is remarkably pure: Mr. Trenham 
Reeks has kindly analyzed some for me, and he finds in it only 0.26 
2 The hovels of the Indians are thus called. 


of gypsum and 0.22 of earthy matter. It is a singular fact, that it 
does not serve so well for preserving meat as sea-salt from the Cape 
de Verd islands; and a merchant at Buenos Ayres told me that he 
considered it as fifty per cent, less valuable. Hence the Cape de 
Verd salt is constantly imported, and is mixed with that from these 
salinas. The purity of the Patagonian salt, or absence from it of 
those other saline bodies found in all sea-water, is the only assign- 
able cause for this inferiority: a conclusion which no one, I think, 
would have suspected, but which is supported by the fact lately 
ascertained, 3 that those salts answer best for preserving cheese which 
contain most of the deliquescent chlorides. 

The border of this lake is formed of mud: and in this numerous 
large crystals of gypsum, some of which are three inches long, lie 
embedded; whilst on the surface others of sulphate of soda lie 
scattered about. The Gauchos call the former the "Padre del sal," 
and the latter the "Madre;" they state that these progenitive salts 
always occur on the borders of the salinas, when the water begins 
to evaporate. The mud is black, and has a fetid odour. I could not 
at first imagine the cause of this, but I afterwards perceived that the 
froth which the wind drifted on shore was coloured green, as if by 
conferva?; I attempted to carry home some of this green matter, but 
from an accident failed. Parts of the lake seen from a short distance 
appeared of a reddish colour, and this perhaps was owing to some 
infusorial animalcula. The mud in many places was thrown up by 
numbers of some kind of worm, or annelidous animal. How sur- 
prising it is that any creatures should be able to exist in brine, and 
that they should be crawling among crystals of sulphate of soda and 
lime! And what becomes of these worms when, during the long 
summer, the surface is hardened into a solid layer of salt? Flamin- 
goes in considerable numbers inhabit this lake, and breed here; 
throughout Patagonia, in Northern Chile, and at the Galapagos 
Islands, I met with these birds wherever there were lakes of brine. 
I saw them here wading about in search of food probably for the 
worms which burrow in the mud; and these latter probably feed on 
infusoria or conferva?. Thus we have a little living world within 
itself, adapted to these inland lakes of brine. A minute crustaceous 

3 Report of the Agricult. Chem. Assoc. in the Agricult. Gazette, 1845, P- 93- 


animal (Cancer salinus) is said 4 to live in countless numbers in the 
brine-pans at Lymington: but only in those in which the fluid has 
attained, from evaporation, considerable strength namely, about a 
quarter of a pound of salt to a pint of water. Well may we affirm 
that every part of the world is habitable! Whether lakes of brine, 
or those subterranean ones hidden beneath volcanic mountains 
warm mineral springs the wide expanse and depths of the ocean 
the upper regions of the atmosphere, and even the surface of 
perpetual snow all support organic beings. 

To the northward of the Rio Negro, between it and the inhabited 
country near Buenos Ayres, the Spaniards have only one small 
settlement, recently established at Bahia Blanca. The distance in a 
straight line to Buenos Ayres is very nearly five hundred British 
miles. The wandering tribes of horse Indians, which have always 
occupied the greater part of this country, having of late much 
harassed the outlying estancias, the government at Buenos Ayres 
equipped some time since an army under the command of General 
Rosas for the purpose of exterminating them. The troops were now 
encamped on the banks of the Colorado; a river lying about eighty 
miles northward of the Rio Negro. When General Rosas left Buenos 
Ayres he struck in a direct line across the unexplored plains: and as 
the country was thus pretty well cleared of Indians, he left behind 
him, at wide intervals, a small party of soldiers with a troop of horses 
(a posta), so as to be enabled to keep up a communication with the 
capital. As the Beagle intended to call at Bahia Blanca, I determined 
to proceed there by land; and ultimately I extended my plan to 
travel the whole way by the postas to Buenos Ayres. 

4 Linnaean Trans., vol. xi. p. 205. It is remarkable how all the circumstances 
connected with the salt-lakes in Siberia and Patagonia are similar. Siberia, like 
Patagonia, appears to have been recently elevated above the waters of the sea. In 
both countries the salt-lakes occupy shallow depressions in the plains; in both the 
mud on the borders is black and fetid; beneath the crust of common salt, sulphate 
of soda or of magnesia occurs, imperfectly crystallized; and in both, the muddy 
sand is mixed with lentils of gypsum. The Siberian salt-lakes are inhabited by small 
crustaceous animals; and flamingoes (Edin. New Philos. Jour., Jan. 1830) likewise 
frequent them. As these circumstances, apparently so trifling, occur in two distant 
continents, we may feel sure that they are the necessary results of common causes. 
See Pallas' s Travels, 1793 to 1794, pp. 129-134. 


August nth. Mr. Harris, an Englishman residing at Patagones, 
a guide, and five Gauchos who were proceeding to the army on 
business, were my companions on the journey. The Colorado, as I 
have already said, is nearly eighty miles distant: and as we travelled 
slowly, we were two days and a half on the road. The whole line 
of country deserves scarcely a better name than that of a desert. 
Water is found only in two small wells; it is called fresh; but even 
at this time of the year, during the rainy season, it was quite brack- 
ish. In the summer this must be a distressing passage; for now it 
was sufficiently desolate. The valley of the Rio Negro, broad as it is, 
has merely been excavated out of the sandstone plain; for immedi- 
ately above the bank on which the town stands, a level country com- 
mences, which is interrupted only by a few trifling valleys and 
depressions. Everywhere the landscape wears the same sterile aspect; 
a dry gravelly soil supports tufts of brown withered grass, and low 
scattered bushes, armed with thorns. 

Shortly after passing the first spring we came in sight of a famous 
tree, which the Indians reverence as the altar of Walleechu. It is 
situated on a high part of the plain; and hence is a landmark visible 
at a great distance. As soon as a tribe of Indians come in sight of it, 
they offer their adorations by loud shouts. The tree itself is low, 
much branched, and thorny: just above the root it has a diameter 
of about three feet. It stands by itself without any neighbour, and 
was indeed the first tree we saw; afterwards we met with a few 
others of the same kind, but they were far from common. Being 
winter the tree had no leaves, but in their place numberless threads, 
by which the various offerings, such as cigars, bread, meat, pieces 
of cloth, etc., had been suspended. Poor Indians, not having any- 
thing better, only pull a thread out of their ponchos, and fasten it 
to the tree. Richer Indians are accustomed to pour spirits and mate 
into a certain hole, and likewise to smoke upwards, thinking thus 
to afford all possible gratification to Walleechu. To complete the 
scene, the tree was surrounded by the bleached bones of horses which 
had been slaughtered as sacrifices. All Indians of every age and sex 
make their offerings; they then think that their horses will not tire, 
and that they themselves shall be prosperous. The Gaucho who told 


me this, said that in the time of peace he had witnessed this scene, 
and that he and others used to wait till the Indians had passed by, 
for the sake of stealing from Walleechu the offerings. 

The Gauchos think that the Indians consider the tree as the god 
itself, but it seems far more probable that they regard it as the 
altar. The only cause which I can imagine for this choice, is its 
being a landmark in a dangerous passage. The Sierra de la Ventana 
is visible at an immense distance; and a Gaucho told me that he 
was once riding with an Indian a few miles to the north of the Rio 
Colorado, when the Indian commenced making the same loud 
noise, which is usual at the first sight of the distant tree; putting 
his hand to his head, and then pointing in the direction of the 
Sierra. Upon being asked the reason of this, the Indian said in 
broken Spanish, "First see the Sierra." About two leagues beyond 
this curious tree we halted for the night: at this instant an unfortu- 
nate cow was spied by the lynx-eyed Gauchos, who set oflF in full 
chase, and in a few minutes dragged her in with their lazos, and 
slaughtered her. We here had the four necessaries of life "en el 
campo," pasture for the horses, water (only a muddy puddle), 
meat and firewood. The Gauchos were in high spirits at finding all 
these luxuries; and we soon set to work at the poor cow. This was 
the first night which I passed under the open sky, with the gear of 
the recado for my bed. There is high enjoyment in the independence 
of the Gaucho life to be able at any moment to pull up your horse, 
and say, "Here we will pass the night." The death-like stillness of 
the plain, the dogs keeping watch, the gipsy-group of Gauchos 
making their beds round the fire, have left in my mind a strongly- 
marked picture of this first night, which will never be forgotten. 

The next day the country continued similar to that above described. 
It is inhabited by few birds or animals of any kind. Occasionally a 
deer, or a Guanaco (wild Llama) may be seen; but the Agouti 
(Cavia Patagonica) is the commonest quadruped. This animal here 
represents our hares. It differs, however, from that genus in many 
essential respects; for instance, it has only three toes behind. It is 
also nearly twice the size, weighing from twenty to twenty-five 
pounds. The Agouti is a true friend of the desert; it is a common 
feature of the landscape to see two or three hopping quickly one 


after the other in a straight line across these wild plains. They are 
found as far north as the Sierra Tapalguen (lat. 37 30'), where the 
plain rather suddenly becomes greener and more humid; and their 
southern limit is between Port Desire and St. Julian, where there is 
no change in the nature of the country. It is a singular fact, that 
although the Agouti is not now found as far south as Port St. 
Julian, yet that Captain Wood, in his voyage in 1670, talks of them 
as being numerous there. What cause can have altered, in a wide, 
uninhabited, and rarely-visited country, the range of an animal like 
this? It appears also, from the number shot by Captain Wood in 
one day at Port Desire, that they must have been considerably more 
abundant there formerly than at present. Where the Bizcacha lives 
and makes its burrows, the Agouti uses them; but where, as at 
Bahia Blanca, the Bizcacha is not found, the Agouti burrows for 
itself. The same thing occurs with the little owl of the Pampas 
(Athene cunicularia), which has so often been described as stand- 
ing like a sentinel at the mouth of the burrows; for in Banda 
Oriental, owing to the absence of the Bizcacha, it is obliged to 
hollow out its own habitation. 

The next morning, as we approached the Rio Colorado, the appear- 
ance of the country changed; we soon came on a plain covered with 
turf, which, from its flowers, tall clover, and little owls, resembled 
the Pampas. We passed also a muddy swamp of considerable extent, 
which in summer dries, and becomes incrusted with various salts; 
and hence is called a salitral. It was covered by low succulent plants, 
of the same kind with those growing on the sea-shore. The Colo- 
rado, at the pass where we crossed it, is only about sixty yards wide; 
generally it must be nearly double that width. Its course is very 
tortuous, being marked by willow-trees and beds of reeds: in a 
direct line the distance to the mouth of the river is said to be nine 
leagues, but by water twenty-five. We were delayed crossing in the 
canoe by some immense troops of mares, which were swimming 
the river in order to follow a division of troops into the interior. 
A more ludicrous spectacle I never beheld than the hundreds and 
hundreds of heads, all directed one way, with pointed ears and 
distended snorting nostrils, appearing just above the water like a 
great shoal of some amphibious animal. Mare's flesh is the only 


food which the soldiers have when on an expedition. This gives 
them a great facility of movement; for the distance to which horses 
can be driven over these plains is quite surprising: I have been 
assured that an unloaded horse can travel a hundred miles a day 
for many days successively. 

The encampment of General Rosas was close to the river. It 
consisted of a square formed by waggons, artillery, straw huts, etc. 
The soldiers were nearly all cavalry; and I should think such a 
villainous, banditti-like army was never before collected together. 
The greater number of men were of a mixed breed, between Negro, 
Indian, and Spaniard. I know not the reason, but men of such 
origin seldom have a good expression of countenance. I called on 
the Secretary to show my passport. He began to cross-question me 
in the most dignified and mysterious manner. By good luck I had a 
letter of recommendation from the government of Buenos Ayres 5 
to the commandant of Patagones. This was taken to General Rosas, 
who sent me a very obliging message; and the Secretary returned 
all smiles and graciousness. We took up our residence in the rancho, 
or hovel, of a curious old Spaniard, who had served with Napoleon 
in the expedition against Russia. 

We stayed two days at the Colorado; I had little to do, for the 
surrounding country was a swamp, which in summer (December), 
when the snow melts on the Cordillera, is overflowed by the river. 
My chief amusement was watching the Indian families as they 
came to buy little articles at the rancho where we stayed. It was 
supposed that General Rosas had about six hundred Indian allies. 
The men were a tall, fine race, yet it was afterwards easy to see in 
the Fuegian savage the same countenance rendered hideous by cold, 
want of food, and less civilization. Some authors, in defining the 
primary races of mankind, have separated these Indians into two 
classes; but this is certainly incorrect. Among the young women or 
chinas, some deserve to be called even beautiful. Their hair was 
coarse, but bright and black; and they wore it in two plaits hanging 
down to the waist. They had a high colour, and eyes that glistened 
with brilliancy; their legs, feet, and arms were small and elegantly 

5 I am bound to express, in the strongest terms, my obligation to the government 
of Buenos Ayres for the obliging manner in which passports to all parts of the 
country were given me, as naturalist of the Beagle. 


formed; their ankles, and sometimes their wrists, were ornamented 
by broad bracelets of blue beads. Nothing could be more interesting 
than some of the family groups. A mother with one or two daughters 
would often come to our rancho, mounted on the same horse. They 
ride like men, but with their knees tucked up much higher. This 
habit, perhaps, arises from their being accustomed, when travelling, to 
ride the loaded horses. The duty of the women is to load and unload 
the horses; to make the tents for the night; in short to be, like the 
wives of all savages, useful slaves. The men fight, hunt, take care of 
the horses, and make the riding gear. One of their chief indoor 
occupations is to knock two stones together till they become round, 
in order to make the bolas. With this important weapon the Indian 
catches his game, and also his horse, which roams free over the plain. 
In fighting, his first attempt is to throw down the horse of his 
adversary with the bolas, and when entangled by the fall to kill 
him with the chuzo. If the balls only catch the neck or body of an 
animal, they are often carried away and lost. As the making the 
stones round is the labour of two days, the manufacture of the balls 
is a very common employment. Several of the men and women 
had their faces painted red, but I never saw the horizontal bands 
which are so common among the Fuegians. Their chief pride con- 
sists in having everything made of silver; I have seen a cacique with 
his spurs, stirrups, handle of his knife, and bridle made of this 
metal: the head-stall and reins being of wire, were not thicker than 
whipcord; and to see a fiery steed wheeling about under the com- 
mand of so light a chain, gave to the horsemanship a remarkable 
character of elegance. 

General Rosas intimated a wish to see me; a circumstance which 
I was afterwards very glad of. He is a man of an extraordinary 
character, and has a most predominant influence in the country, 
which it seems he will use to its prosperity and advancement. 6 He 
is said to be the owner of seventy-four square leagues of land, and to 
have about three hundred thousand head of cattle. His estates are 
admirably managed, and are far more productive of corn than those 
of others. He first gained his celebrity by his laws for his own 
estancias, and by disciplining several hundred men, so as to resist 

6 This prophecy has turned out entirely and miserably wrong. 1845. 


with success the attacks of the Indians. There are many stories 
current about the rigid manner in which his laws were enforced. 
One of these was, that no man, on penalty of being put into the 
stocks, should carry his knife on a Sunday: this being the principal 
day for gambling and drinking, many quarrels arose, which from 
the general manner of fighting with the knife often proved fatal. 
One Sunday the Governor came in great form to pay the estancia 
a visit, and General Rosas, in his hurry, walked out to receive him 
with his knife, as usual, stuck in his belt. The steward touched his 
arm, and reminded him of the law; upon which, turning to the 
Governor, he said he was extremely sorry, but that he must go into 
the stocks, and that till let out, he possessed no power even in his 
own house. After a little time the steward was persuaded to open 
the stocks, and to let him out, but no sooner was this done, than he 
turned to the steward and said, "You now have broken the laws, 
so you must take my place in the stocks." Such actions as these 
delighted the Gauchos, who all possess high notions of their own 
equality and dignity. 

General Rosas is also a perfect horseman an accomplishment of 
no small consequence in a country where an assembled army elected 
its general by the following trial : A troop of unbroken horses being 
driven into a corral, were let out through a gateway, above which 
was a cross-bar: it was agreed whoever should drop from the bar 
on one of these wild animals, as it rushed out, and should be able, 
without saddle or bridle, not only to ride it, but also to bring it back 
to the door of the corral, should be their general. The person who 
succeeded was accordingly elected; and doubtless made a fit general 
for such an army. This extraordinary feat has also been performed 
by Rosas. 

By these means, and by conforming to the dress and habits of the 
Gauchos, he has obtained an unbounded popularity in the country, 
and in consequence a despotic power. I was assured by an English 
merchant, that a man who had murdered another, when arrested and 
questioned concerning his motive, answered, "He spoke disrespect- 
fully of General Rosas, so I killed him." At the end of a week the 
murderer was at liberty. This doubtless was the act of the general's 
party, and not of the general himself. 


In conversation he is enthusiastic, sensible, and very grave. His 
gravity is carried to a high pitch: I heard one of his mad buffoons 
(for he keeps two, like the barons of old) relate the following anec- 
dote. "I wanted very much to hear a certain piece of music, so I 
went to the general two or three times to ask him; he said to me, 
'Go about your business, for I am engaged.' I went a second time; 
he said, 'If you come again I will punish you.' A third time I asked, 
and he laughed. I rushed out of the tent, but it was too late; he 
ordered two soldiers to catch and stake me. I begged by all the 
saints in heaven he would let me off; but it would not do; when 
the general laughs he spares neither mad man nor sound." The 
poor flighty gentleman looked quite dolorous, at the very recollection 
of the staking. This is a very severe punishment; four posts are 
driven into the ground, and the man is extended by his arms and 
legs horizontally, and there left to stretch for several hours. The 
idea is evidently taken from the usual method of drying hides. My 
interview passed away, without a smile, and I obtained a passport 
and order for the government post-horses, and this he gave me in 
the most obliging and ready manner. 

In the morning we started for Bahia Blanca, which we reached 
in two days. Leaving the regular encampment, we passed by the 
toldos of the Indians. These are round like ovens, and covered with 
hides; by the mouth of each, a tapering chuzo was stuck in the 
ground. The toldos were divided into separate groups, which belong 
to the different caciques' tribes, and the groups were again divided 
into smaller ones, according to the relationship of the owners. For 
several miles we travelled along the valley of the Colorado. The 
alluvial plains on the side appeared fertile, and it is supposed that 
they are well adapted to the growth of corn. Turning northward 
from the river, we soon entered on a country, differing from the 
plains south of the river. The land still continued dry and sterile: 
but it supported many different kinds of plants, and the grass, 
though brown and withered, was more abundant, as the thorny 
bushes were less so. These latter in a short space entirely disappeared, 
and the plains were left without a thicket to cover their nakedness. 
This change in the vegetation marks the commencement of the 
grand calcareo argillaceous deposit, which forms the wide extent of 


the Pampas, and covers the granitic rocks of Banda Oriental. From 
the Strait of Magellan to the Colorado, a distance of about eight 
hundred miles, the face of the country is everywhere composed of 
shingle: the pebbles are chiefly of porphyry, and probably owe their 
origin to the rocks of the Cordillera. North of the Colorado this bed 
thins out, and the pebbles become exceedingly small, and here the 
characteristic vegetation of Patagonia ceases. 

Having ridden about twenty-five miles, we came to a broad belt 
of sand-dunes, which stretches, as far as the eye can reach, to the 
east and west. The sand-hillocks resting on the clay, allow small 
pools of water to collect, and thus afford in this dry country an 
invaluable supply of fresh water. The great advantage arising from 
depressions and elevations of the soil, is not often brought home to 
the mind. The two miserable springs in the long passage between 
the Rio Negro and Colorado were caused by trifling inequalities 
in the plain; without them not a drop of water would have been 
found. The belt of sand-dunes is about eight miles wide; at some 
former period, it probably formed the margin of a grand estuary, 
where the Colorado now flows. In this district, where absolute proofs 
of the recent elevation of the land occur, such speculations can 
hardly be neglected by any one, although merely considering the 
physical geography of the country. Having crossed the sandy tract, 
we arrived in the evening at one of the post-houses; and, as the fresh 
horses were grazing at a distance we determined to pass the night 

The house was situated at the base of a ridge between one and 
two hundred feet high a most remarkable feature in this country. 
This posta was commanded by a negro lieutenant, born in Africa: 
to his credit be it said, there was not a ranche between the Colorado 
and Buenos Ayres in nearly such neat order as his. He had a little 
room for strangers, and a small corral for the horses, all made of 
sticks and reeds; he had also dug a ditch round his house as a 
defence in case of being attacked. This would, however, have been 
of little avail, if the Indians had come; but his chief comfort seemed 
to rest in the thought of selling his life dearly. A short time before, 
a body of Indians had travelled past in the night; if they had been 
aware of the posta, our black friend and his four soldiers would 


assuredly have been slaughtered. I did not anywhere meet a more 
civil and obliging man than this negro; it was therefore the more 
painful to see that he would not sit down and eat with us. 

In the morning we sent for the horses very early, and started for 
another exhilarating gallop. We passed the Cabeza del Buey, an old 
name given to the head of a large marsh, which extends from Bahia 
Blanca. Here we changed horses, and passed through some leagues 
of swamps and saline marshes. Changing horses for the last time, 
we again began wading through the mud. My animal fell and I 
was well soused in black mire a very disagreeable accident when 
one does not possess a change of clothes. Some miles from the fort 
we met a man, who told us that a great gun had been fired, which is 
a signal that Indians are near. We immediately left the road, and 
followed the edge of a marsh, which when chased offers the best 
mode of escape. We were glad to arrive within the walls, when we 
found all the alarm was about nothing, for the Indians turned out 
to be friendly ones, who wished to join General Rosas. 

Bahia Blanca scarcely deserves the name of a village. A few 
houses and the barracks for the troops are enclosed by a deep ditch 
and fortified wall. The settlement is only of recent standing (since 
1828); and its growth has been one of trouble. The government of 
Buenos Ayres unjustly occupied it by force, instead of following 
the wise example of the Spanish Viceroys, who purchased the land 
near the older settlement of the Rio Negro, from the Indians. Hence 
the need of the fortifications; hence the few houses and little culti- 
vated land without the limits of the walls; even the cattle are not 
safe from the attacks of the Indians beyond the boundaries of the 
plain, on which the fortress stands. 

The part of the harbour where the Beagle intended to anchor 
being distant twenty-five miles, I obtained from the Commandant 
a guide and horses, to take me to see whether she had arrived. 
Leaving the plain of green turf, which extended along the course 
of a little brook, we soon entered on a wide level waste consisting 
either of sand, saline marshes, or bare mud. Some parts were clothed 
by low thickets, and others with those succulent plants, which lux- 
uriate only where salt abounds. Bad as the country was, ostriches, 
deer, agoutis, and armadilloes, were abundant. My guide told me, 


that two months before he had a most narrow escape of his life: 
he was out hunting with two other men, at no great distance from 
this part of the country, when they were suddenly met by a party 
of Indians, who giving chase, soon overtook and killed his two 
friends. His own horse's legs were also caught by the bolas; but he 
jumped off, and with his knife cut them free: while doing this he 
was obliged to dodge round his horse, and received two severe 
wounds from their chuzos. Springing on the saddle, he managed, by 
a most wonderful exertion, just to keep ahead of the long spears of 
his pursuers, who followed him to within sight of the fort. From 
that time there was an order that no one should stray far from the 
settlement. I did not know of this when I started, and was sur- 
prised to observe how earnestly my guide watched a deer, which 
appeared to have been frightened from a distant quarter. 

We found the Beagle had not arrived, and consequently set out 
on our return, but the horses soon tiring, we were obliged to bivouac 
on the plain. In the morning we had caught an armadillo, which, 
although a most excellent dish when roasted in its shell, did not 
make a very substantial breakfast and dinner for two hungry men. 
The ground at the place where we stopped for the night, was 
incrusted with a layer of sulphate of soda, and hence, of course, was 
without water. Yet many of the smaller rodents managed to exist 
even here, and the tucutuco was making its odd little grunt beneath 
my head, during half the night. Our horses were very poor ones, 
and in the morning they were soon exhausted from not having had 
anything to drink, so that we were obliged to walk. About noon 
the dogs killed a kid, which we roasted. I ate some of it, but it made 
me intolerably thirsty. This was the more distressing as the road, 
from some recent rain, was full of little puddles of clear water, yet 
not a drop was drinkable. I had scarcely been twenty hours without 
water, and only part of the time under a hot sun, yet the thirst 
rendered me very weak. How people survive two or three days 
under such circumstances, I cannot imagine: at the same time, I 
must confess that my guide did not suffer at all, and was astonished 
that one day's deprivation should be so troublesome to me. 

I have several times alluded to the surface of the ground being 
incrusted with salt. This phenomenon is quite different from that 


of the salinas, and more extraordinary. In many parts of South 
America, wherever the climate is moderately dry, these incrustations 
occur; but I have nowhere seen them so abundant as near Bahia 
Blanca. The salt here, and in other parts of Patagonia, consists chiefly 
of sulphate of soda with some common salt. As long as the ground 
remains moist in the salitrales (as the Spaniards improperly call 
them, mistaking this substance for saltpetre), nothing is to be seen 
but an extensive plain composed of a black, muddy soil, supporting 
scattered tufts of succulent plants. On returning through one of 
these tracts, after a week's hot weather, one is surprised to see square 
miles of the plain white, as if from a slight fall of snow, here and 
there heaped up by the wind into little drifts. This latter appearance 
is chiefly caused by the salts being drawn up, during the slow 
evaporation of the moisture, round blades of dead grass, stumps of 
wood, and pieces of broken earth, instead of being crystallized at 
the bottoms of the puddles of water. The salitrales occur either on 
level tracts elevated only a few feet above the level of the sea, or on 
alluvial land bordering rivers. M. Parchappe 7 found that the saline 
incrustation on the plain, at the distance of some miles from the 
sea, consisted chiefly of sulphate of soda, with only seven per cent, 
of common salt; whilst nearer to the coast, the common salt increased 
to 37 parts in a hundred. This circumstance would tempt one to 
believe that the sulphate of soda is generated in the soil, from the 
muriate, left on the surface during the slow and recent elevation of 
this dry country. The whole phenomenon is well worthy the atten- 
tion of naturalists. Have the succulent, salt-loving plants, which are 
well known to contain much soda, the power of decomposing the 
muriate ? Does the black fetid mud, abounding with organic matter, 
yield the sulphur and ultimately the sulphuric acid? 

Two days afterwards I again rode to the harbour: when not far 
from our destination, my companion, the same man as before, spied 
three people hunting on horseback. He immediately dismounted, 
and watching them intently, said, "They don't ride like Christians, 
and nobody can leave the fort." The three hunters joined company, 
and likewise dismounted from their horses. At last one mounted 
again and rode over the hill out of sight. My companion said, "We 

7 Voyage dans 1'Am^rique Mrid par M. A. d'Orbigny. Part. Hist. torn. i. p. 664. 


must now get on our horses: load your pistol;" and he looked to his 
own sword. I asked, "Are they Indians?" "Quien sabe? (who 
knows?) if there are no more than three, it does not signify." It 
then struck me, that the one man had gone over the hill to fetch 
the rest of his tribe. I suggested this; but all the answer I could 
extort was, "Quien sabe?" His head and eye never for a minute 
ceased scanning slowly the distant horizon. I thought his uncommon 
coolness too good a joke, and asked him why he did not return 
home. I was startled when he answered, "We are returning, but in 
a line so as to pass near a swamp, into which we can gallop the 
horses as far as they can go, and then trust to our own legs; so that 
there is no danger." I did not feel quite so confident of this, and 
wanted to increase our pace. He said, "No, not until they do." When 
any little inequality concealed us, we galloped; but when in sight, 
continued walking. At last we reached a valley, and turning to the 
left, galloped quickly to the foot of a hill; he gave me his horse to 
hold, made the dogs lie down, and then crawled on his hands and 
knees to reconnoitre. He remained in this position for some time, 
and at last, bursting out in laughter, exclaimed, "Mugeres!" 
(women!). He knew them to be the wife and sister-in-law of the 
major's son, hunting for ostrich's eggs. I have described this man's 
conduct, because he acted under the full impression that they were 
Indians. As soon, however, as the absurd mistake was found out, 
he gave me a hundred reasons why they could not have been Indians; 
but all these were forgotten at the time. We then rode on in peace 
and quietness to a low point called Punta Alta, whence we could 
see nearly the whole of the great harbour of Bahia Blanca. 

The wide expanse of water is choked up by numerous great mud- 
banks, which the inhabitants call Cangrejales, or crabberies, from 
the number of small crabs. The mud is so soft that it is impossible 
to walk over them, even for the shortest distance. Many of the 
banks have their surfaces covered with long rushes, the tops of 
which alone are visible at high water. On one occasion, when in a 
boat, we were so entangled by these shallows that we could hardly 
find our way. Nothing was visible but the flat beds of mud; the 
day was not very clear, and there was much refraction, or as the 
sailors expressed it, "things loomed high." The only object within 


our view which was not level was the horizon; rushes looked like 
bushes unsupported in the air, and water like mud-banks, and mud- 
banks like water. 

We passed the night in Punta Alta, and I employed myself in 
searching for fossil bones; this point being a perfect catacomb for 
monsters of extinct races. The evening was perfectly calm and clear; 
the extreme monotony of the view gave it an interest even in the 
midst of mud-banks and gulls, sand-hillocks and solitary vultures. 
In riding back in the morning we came across a very fresh track of 
a Puma, but did not succeed in finding it. We saw also a couple of 
Zorillos, or skunks, odious animals, which are far from uncommon. 
In general appearance, the Zorillo resembles a polecat, but it is 
rather larger, and much thicker in proportion. Conscious of its 
power, it roams by day about the open plain, and fears neither dog 
nor man. If a dog is urged to the attack, its courage is instantly 
checked by a few drops of the fetid oil, which brings on violent 
sickness and running at the nose. Whatever is once polluted by it, 
is for ever useless. Azara says the smell can be perceived at a league 
distant; more than once, when entering the harbour of Monte Video, 
the wind being off shore, we have perceived the odour on board the 
Beagle. Certain it is, that every animal most willingly makes room 
for the Zorillo. 


Bahia Blanca Geology Numerous gigantic Quadrupeds Recent Ex- 
tinction Longevity of Species Large Animals do not require a 
luxuriant vegetation Southern Africa Siberian Fossils Two Species 
of Ostrich Habits of Oven-bird Armadilloes Venomous Snake, 
Toad, Lizard Hybernation of Animals Habits of Sea-Pen Indian 
Wars and Massacres Arrow-head, antiquarian Relic. 

THE Beagle arrived here on the 24th of August, and a week 
afterwards sailed for the Plata. With Captain Fitz Roy's 
consent I was left behind, to travel by land to Buenos Ayres. 
I will here add some observations, which were made during this 
visit and on a previous occasion, when the Beagle was employed in 
surveying the harbour. 

The plain, at the distance of a few miles from the coast, belongs 
to the great Pampean formation, which consists in part of a reddish 
clay, and in part of a highly calcareous marly rock. Nearer the coast 
there are some plains formed from the wreck of the upper plain, and 
from mud, gravel, and sand thrown up by the sea during the slow 
elevation of the land, of which elevation we have evidence in up- 
raised beds of recent shells, and in rounded pebbles of pumice scat- 
tered over the country. At Punta Alta we have a section of one of 
these later-formed little plains, which is highly interesting from the 
number and extraordinary character of the remains of gigantic land- 
animals embedded in it. These 'have been fully described by Pro- 
fessor Owen, in the Zoology of the voyage of the Beagle, and are 
deposited in the College of Surgeons. I will here give only a brief 
outline of their nature. 

First, parts of three heads and other bones of the Megatherium, the 
huge dimensions of which are expressed by its name. Secondly, the 
Megalonyx, a great allied animal. Thirdly, the Scelidotherium, 
also an allied animal, of which I obtained a nearly perfect skeleton. 
It must have been as large as a rhinoceros: in the structure of its head 



it comes, according to Mr. Owen, nearest to the Cape Anteater, but 
in some other respects it approaches to the armadilloes. Fourthly, 
the Mylodon Darwinii, a closely related genus of little inferior size. 
Fifthly, another gigantic edental quadruped. Sixthly, a large ani- 
mal, with an osseous coat in compartments, very like that of an ar- 
madillo. Seventhly, an extinct kind of horse, to which I shall have 
again to refer. Eighthly, a tooth of a Pachydermatous animal, 
probably the same with the Macrauchenia, a huge beast with a long 
neck like a camel, which I shall also refer to again. Lastly, the 
Toxodon, perhaps one of the strangest animals ever discovered: in 
size it equalled an elephant or megatherium, but the structure of its 
teeth, as Mr. Owen states, proves indisputably that it was intimately 
related to the Gnawers, the order which, at the present day, includes 
most of the smallest quadrupeds: in many details it is allied to the 
Pachydermata : judging from the position of its eyes, ears, and nos- 
trils, it was probably aquatic, like the Dugong and Manatee, to 
which it is also allied. How wonderfully are the different Orders, at 
the present time so well separated, blended together in different 
points of the structure of the Toxodon! 

The remains of these nine great quadrupeds, and many detached 
bones, were found embedded on the beach, within the space of about 
200 yards square. It is a remarkable circumstance that so many dif- 
ferent species should be found together; and it proves how numerous 
in kind the ancient inhabitants of this country must have been. At 
the distance of about thirty miles from Punta Aha, in a cliff of red 
earth, I found several fragments of bones, some of large size. Among 
them were the teeth of a gnawer, equalling in size and closely re- 
sembling those of the Capybara, whose habits have been described; 
and therefore, probably, an aquatic animal. There was also part of 
the head of a Ctenomys; the species being different from the Tucu- 
tuco, but with a close general resemblance. The red earth, like that of 
the Pampas, in which these remains were embedded, contains, 
according to Professor Ehrenberg, eight fresh-water and one salt- 
water infusorial animalcule; therefore, probably, it was an estuary 

The remains at Punta Alta were embedded in stratified gravel and 
reddish mud, just such as the sea might now wash up on a shallow 


bank. They were associated with twenty-three species of shells, of 
which thirteen are recent and four others very closely related to 
recent forms. 1 From the bones of the Scelidotherium, including even 
the knee-cap, being intombed in their proper relative positions, and 
from the osseous armour of the great armadillo-like animal being so 
well preserved, together with the bones of one of its legs, we may 
feel assured that these remains were fresh and united by their liga- 
ments, when deposited in the gravel together with the shells. 2 Hence 
we have good evidence that the above enumerated gigantic quad- 
rupeds, more different from those of the present day than the oldest 
of the tertiary quadrupeds of Europe, lived whilst the sea was peo- 
pled with most of its present inhabitants; and we have confirmed 
that remarkable law so often insisted on by Mr. Lyell, namely, that 
the "longevity of the species in the mammalia is upon the whole 
inferior to that of the testacea." 3 

The great size of the bones of the Megatheroid animals, including 
the Megatherium, Megalonyx, Scelidotherium, and Mylodon, is 
truly wonderful. The habits of life of these animals were a complete 
puzzle to naturalists, until Professor Owen 4 solved the problem with 
remarkable ingenuity. The teeth indicate, by their simple structure, 
that these Megatheroid animals lived on vegetable food, and probably 
on the leaves and small twigs of trees; their ponderous forms and 
great strong curved claws seem so little adapted for locomotion, that 
some eminent naturalists have actually believed, that, like the sloths, 
to which they are intimately related, they subsisted by climbing 
back downwards on trees, and feeding on the leaves. It was a bold, 
not to say preposterous, idea to conceive even antediluvian trees, 
with branches strong enough to bear animals as large as elephants. 
Professor Owen, with far more probability, believes that, instead of 
climbing on the trees, they pulled the branches down to them, 

1 Since this was written, M. Alcide d'Orbigny has examined these shells, and 
pronounces them all to be recent. 

2 M. Aug. Bravard has described, in a Spanish work ('Observaciones Geologicas,' 
1857), this district, and he believes that the bones of the extinct mammals were 
washed out of the underlying Pampean deposit, and subsequently became embedded 
with the still existing shells; but I am not convinced by his remarks. M. Bravard 
believes that the whole enormous Pampean deposit is a sub-aerial formation, like 
sand-dunes: this seems to me to be an untenable doctrine. 

3 Principles of Geology, vol. iv. p. 40. 

4 This theory was first developed in the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, 
and subsequently in Professor Owen's Memoir on Mylodon robustus. 


and tore up the smaller ones by the roots, and so fed on the leaves. 
The colossal breadth and weight of their hinder quarters, which can 
hardly be imagined without having been seen, become, on this view, 
of obvious service, instead of being an incumbrance: their apparent 
clumsiness disappears. With their great tails and their huge heels 
firmly fixed like a tripod on the ground, they could freely exert the 
full force of their most powerful arms and great claws. Strongly 
rooted, indeed, must that tree have been, which could have resisted 
such force! The Mylodon, moreover, was furnished with a long 
extensile tongue like that of the giraffe, which, by one of those beau- 
tiful provisions of nature, thus reaches with the aid of its long neck 
its leafy food. I may remark, that in Abyssinia the elephant, accord- 
ing to Bruce, when it cannot reach with its proboscis the branches, 
deeply scores with its tusks the 'trunk of the tree, up and down and 
all round, till it is sufficiently weakened to be broken down. 

The beds including the above fossil remains, stand only from 
fifteen to twenty feet above the level of high-water; and hence the 
elevation of the land has been small (without there has been an in- 
tercalated period of subsidence, of which we have no evidence) since 
the great quadrupeds wandered over the surrounding plains; and 
the external features of the country must then have been very nearly 
the same as now. What, it may naturally be asked, was the character 
of the vegetation at that period; was the country as wretchedly 
sterile as it now is? As so many of the co-embedded shells are the 
same with those now living in the bay, I was at first inclined to think 
that the former vegetation was probably similar to the existing one; 
but this would have been an erroneous inference, for some of these 
same shells live on the luxuriant coast of Brazil; and generally, the 
character of the inhabitants of the sea are useless as guides to judge 
of those on the land. Nevertheless, from the following considera- 
tions, I do not believe that the simple fact of many gigantic quad- 
rupeds having lived on the plains round Bahia Blanca, is any sure 
guide that they formerly were clothed with a luxuriant vegetation: 
I have no doubt that the sterile country a little southward, near the 
Rio Negro, with its scattered thorny trees, would support many and 
large quadrupeds. 

That large animals require a luxuriant vegetation, has been a 


general assumption which has passed from one work to another; 
but I do not hesitate to say that it is completely false, and that it has 
vitiated the reasoning of geologists on some points of great interest 
in the ancient history of the world. The prejudice has probably been 
derived from India, and the Indian islands, where troops of elephants, 
noble forests, and impenetrable jungles, are associated together in 
every one's mind. If, however, we refer to any work of travels 
through the southern parts of Africa, we shall find allusions in al- 
most every page either to the desert character of the country, or to 
the numbers of large animals inhabiting it. The same thing is ren- 
dered evident by the many engravings which have been published of 
various parts of the interior. When the Beagle was at Cape Town, 
I made an excursion of some days' length into the country, which 
at least was sufficient to render that which I had read more fully 

Dr. Andrew Smith, who, at the head of his adventurous party, has 
lately succeeded in passing the Tropic of Capricorn, informs me that, 
taking into consideration the whole of the southern part of Africa, 
there can be no doubt of its being a sterile country. On the southern 
and south-eastern coasts there are some fine forests, but with these 
exceptions, the traveller may pass for days together through open 
plains, covered by a poor and scanty vegetation. It is difficult to 
convey any accurate idea of degrees of comparative fertility; but it 
may be safely said that the amount of vegetation supported at any 
one time 5 by Great Britain, exceeds, perhaps even tenfold, the quan- 
tity on an equal area, in the interior parts of Southern Africa. The 
fact that bullock- waggons can travel in any direction, excepting near 
the coast, without more than occasionally half an hour's delay in 
cutting down bushes, gives, perhaps, a more definite notion of the 
scantiness of the vegetation. Now, if we look to the animals inhab- 
iting these wide plains, we shall find their numbers extraordinarily 
great, and their bulk immense. We must enumerate the elephant, 
three species of rhinoceros, and probably, according to Dr. Smith, two 
others, the hippopotamus, the giraffe, the bos cafTer as large as a 
full-grown bull, and the elan 'but little less, two zebras, and the 

5 1 mean by this to exclude the total amount which may have been successively 
produced and consumed during a given period. 


quaccha, two gnus, and several antelopes even larger than these 
latter animals. It may be supposed that although the species are 
numerous, the individuals of each kind are few. By the kindness of 
Dr. Smith, I am enabled to show that the case is very different. He 
informs me, that in lat. 24, in one day's march with the bullock- 
waggons, he saw, without wandering to any great distance on either 
side, between one hundred and one hundred and fifty rhinoceroses, 
which belonged to three species: the same day he saw several herds 
of giraffes, amounting together to nearly a hundred; and that al- 
though no elephant was observed, yet they are found in this district. 
At the distance of a little more than one hour's march from their 
place of encampment on the previous night, his party actually killed 
at one spot eight hippopotamuses, and saw many more. In this same 
river there were likewise crocodiles. Of course, it was a case quite 
extraordinary, to see so many great animals crowded together, but 
it evidently proves that they must exist in great numbers. Dr. Smith 
describes the country passed through that day, as "being thinly 
covered with grass, and bushes about four feet high, and still more 
thinly with mimosa-trees." The waggons were not prevented travel- 
ling in a nearly straight line. 

Besides these large animals, every one the least acquainted with the 
natural history of the Cape, has read of the herds of antelopes, which 
can be compared only with the flocks of migratory birds. The num- 
bers indeed of the lion, panther, and hyaena, and the multitude of 
birds of prey, plainly speak of the abundance of the smaller quadru- 
peds : one evening seven lions were counted at the same time prowl- 
ing round Dr. Smith's encampment. As this able naturalist remarked 
to me, the carnage each day in Southern Africa must indeed be 
terrific! I confess it is truly surprising how such a number of ani- 
mals can find support in a country producing so little food. The 
larger quadrupeds no doubt roam over wide tracts in search of it; 
and their food chiefly consists of underwood, which probably con- 
tains much nutriment in a small bulk. Dr. Smith also informs me 
that the vegetation has a rapid growth; no sooner is a part consumed, 
than its place is supplied by a fresh stock. There can be no doubt, 
however, that our ideas respecting the apparent amount of food 
necessary for the support of large quadrupeds are much exag- 


gerated: it should have been remembered that the camel, an animal 
of no mean bulk, has always been considered as the emblem of the 

The belief that where large quadrupeds exist, the vegetation must 
necessarily be luxuriant, is the more remarkable, because the con- 
verse is far from true. Mr. Burchell observed to me that when enter- 
ing Brazil, nothing struck him more forcibly than the splendour of 
the South American vegetation contrasted with that of South Africa, 
together with the absence of all large quadrupeds. In his Travels, 6 
he has suggested that the comparison of the respective weights (if 
there were sufficient data) of an equal number of the largest her- 
bivorous quadrupeds of each country would be extremely curious. If 
we take on the one side, the elephant, 7 hippopotamus, giraffe, bos 
cafler, elan, certainly three, and probably five species of rhinoceros; 
and on the American side, two tapirs, the guanaco, three deer, the 
vicuna, peccari, capybara (after which we must choose from the 
monkeys to complete the number) , and then place these two groups 
alongside each other, it is not easy to conceive ranks more dispro- 
portionate in size. After the above facts, we are compelled to con- 
clude, against anterior probability, 8 that among the mammalia there 
exists no close relation between the bull^ of the species, and the 
quantity of the vegetation, in the countries which they inhabit. 

8 Travels in the Interior of South Africa, vol. ii. p. 207. 

7 The elephant which was killed at Exeter Change was estimated (being partly 
weighed) at five tons and a half. The elephant actress, as I was informed, weighed 
one ton less; so that we may take five as the average of a full-grown elephant. 
I was told at the Surrey Gardens, that a hippopotamus which was sent to England 
cut up into pieces was estimated at three tons and a half; we will call it three. 
From these premises we may give three tons and a half to each of the five 
rhinoceroses; perhaps a ton to the giraffe, and half to the bos caffer as well as to 
the elan (a large ox weighs 1200 to 1500 pounds). This will give an average 
(from the above estimates) of 2.7 of a ton for the ten largest herbivorous animals 
of Southern Africa. In South America, allowing 1200 pounds for the two tapirs 
together, 550 for the guanaco and vicuna, 500 for three deer, 300 for the capybara, 
peccari, and a monkey, we shall have an average of 250 pounds, which I believe is 
overstating the result. The ratio will therefore be as 6048 to 250, or 24 to i, for 
the ten largest animals from the two continents. 

8 If we suppose the case of the discovery of a skeleton of a Greenland whale in 
a fossil state, not a single cetaceous animal being known to exist, what naturalist 
would have ventured conjecture on the possibility of a carcass so gigantic being 
supported on the minute Crustacea and mollusca living in the frozen seas of the 
extreme North? 


With regard to the number of large quadrupeds, there certainly 
exists no quarter of the globe which will bear comparison with 
Southern Africa. After the different statements which have been 
given, the extremely desert character of that region will not be dis- 
puted. In the European division of the world, we must look back 
to the tertiary epochs, to find a condition of things among the mam- 
malia, resembling that now existing at the Cape of Good Hope. 
Those tertiary epochs, which we are apt to consider as abounding 
to an astonishing degree with large animals, because we find the re- 
mains of many ages accumulated at certain spots, could hardly boast 
of more large quadrupeds than Southern Africa does at present. 
If we speculate on the condition of the vegetation during these 
epochs, we are at least bound so far to consider existing analogies, 
as not to urge as absolutely necessary a luxuriant vegetation, when 
we see a state of things so totally different at the Cape of Good Hope. 

We know 9 that the extreme regions of North America, many de- 
grees beyond the limit where the ground at the depth of a few feet 
remains perpetually congealed, are covered by forests of large and 
tall trees. In a like manner, in Siberia, we have woods of birch, fir, 
aspen, and larch, growing in a latitude 10 (64) where the mean tem- 
perature of the air falls below the freezing point, and where the 
earth is so completely frozen, that the carcass of an animal embedded 
in it is perfectly preserved. With these facts we must grant, as far as 
quantity alone of vegetation is concerned, that the great quadrupeds 
of the later tertiary epochs might, in most parts of Northern Europe 
and Asia, have lived on the spots where their remains are now found. 
I do not here speak of the fynd of vegetation necessary for their sup- 
port; because, as there is evidence of physical changes, and as the 
animals have become extinct, so may we suppose that the species of 
plants have likewise been changed. 

9 See Zoological Remarks to Capt. Back's Expedition, by Dr. Richardson. He says, 
"The subsoil north of latitude 56 is perpetually frozen, the thaw on the coast not 
penetrating above three feet, and at Bear Lake, in latitude 64, not more than 
twenty inches. The frozen substratum does not of itself destroy vegetation, for 
forests flourish on the surface, at a distance from the coast." 

10 See Humboldt, Fragments Asiatiques, p. 386: Barton's Geography of Plants: 
and Make Brun. In the latter work it is said that the limit of the growth of trees 
in Siberia may be drawn under the parallel of 70. 


These remarks, I may be permitted to add, directly bear on the 
case of the Siberian animals preserved in ice. The firm conviction of 
the necessity of a vegetation possessing a character of tropical luxu- 
riance, to support such large animals, and the impossibility of recon- 
ciling this with the proximity of perpetual congelation, was one 
chief cause of the several theories of sudden revolutions of climate, 
and of overwhelming catastrophes, which were invented to account 
for their entombment. I am far from supposing that the climate has 
not changed since the period when those animals lived, which now 
lie buried in the ice. At present I only wish to show, that as far as 
quantity of food alone is concerned, the ancient rhinoceroses might 
have roamed over the steppes of central Siberia (the northern parts 
probably being under water) even in their present condition, as well 
as the living rhinoceroses and elephants over the Karros of Southern 

I will now give an account of the habits of some of the more in- 
teresting birds which are common on the wild plains of Northern 
Patagonia; and first for the largest, or South American ostrich. The 
ordinary habits of the ostrich are familiar to every one. They live on 
vegetable matter, such as roots and grass; but at Bahia Blanca I have 
repeatedly seen three or four come down at low water to the exten 
sive mud4)anks which are then dry, for the sake, as the Gauchos 
say, of feeding on small fish. Although the ostrich in its habits is so 
shy, wary, and solitary, and although so fleet in its pace, it is caught 
without much difficulty by the Indian or Gaucho armed with the 
bolas. When several horsemen appear in a semicircle, it becomes 
confounded, and does not know which way to escape. They gen- 
erally prefer running against the wind; yet at the first start they ex- 
pand their wings, and like a vessel make all sail. On one fine hot day 
I saw several ostriches enter a bed of tall rushes, where they squatted 
concealed, till quite closely approached. It is not generally known 
that ostriches readily take to the water. Mr. King informs me that 
at the Bay of San Bias, and at Port Valdes in Patagonia, he saw these 
birds swimming several times from island to island. They ran into 
the water both when driven down to a point, and likewise of their 
own accord when not frightened: the distance crossed was about 



two hundred yards. When swimming, very little of their bodies ap- 
pear above water; their necks are extended a little forward, and 
their progress is slow. On two occasions I saw some ostriches swim- 
ming across the Santa Cruz river, where its course was about four 
hundred yards wide, and the stream rapid. Captain Sturt, 11 when 
descending the Murrumbidgee, in Australia, saw two emus in the 
act of swimming. 

The inhabitants of the country readily distinguish, even at a dis- 
tance, the cock bird from the hen. The former is larger and darker- 
coloured, 12 and has a bigger head. The ostrich, I believe the cock, 
emits a singular, deep-toned, hissing note: when first I heard it, 
standing in the midst of some sand-hillocks, I thought it was made 
by some wild beast, for it is a sound that one cannot tell whence it 
comes, or from how far distant. When we were at Bahia Blanca 
in the months of September and October, the eggs, in extraordinary 
numbers, were found all over the country. They lie either scattered 
and single, in which case they are never hatched, and are called by 
the Spaniards huachos; or they are collected together into a shallow 
excavation, which forms the nest. Out of the four nests which I 
saw, three contained twenty-two eggs each, and the fourth twenty- 
seven. In one day's hunting on horseback sixty-four eggs were 
found; forty-four of these were in two nests, and the remaining 
twenty, scattered huachos. The Gauchos unanimously affirm, and 
there is no reason to doubt their statement, that the male bird alone 
hatches the eggs, and for some time afterwards accompanies the 
young. The cock when on the nest lies very close; I have myself 
almost ridden over one. It is asserted that at such times they are occa- 
sionally fierce, and even dangerous, and that they have been known 
to attack a man on horseback, trying to kick and leap on him. My 
informer pointed out to me an old man, whom he had seen much 
terrified by one chasing him. I observe in Burchell's travels in South 
Africa, that he remarks, "Having killed a male ostrich, and the 
feathers being dirty, it was said by the Hottentots to be a nest bird." 
I understand that the male emu in the Zoological Gardens takes 
charge of the nest: this habit, therefore, is common to the family. 

11 Sturt's Travels, vol. ii. p. 74. 

12 A Gaucho assured me that he had once seen a snow-white or Albino variety, 
and that it was a most beautiful bird. 


The Gauchos unanimously affirm that several females lay in one 
nest. I have been positively told that four or five hen birds have 
been watched to go in the middle of the day, one after the other, 
to the same nest. I may add, also, that it is believed in Africa, that 
two or more females lay in one nest. 13 Although this habit at first 
appears very strange, I think the cause may be explained in a simple 
manner. The number of eggs in the nest varies from twenty to 
forty, and even to fifty; and according to Azara, sometimes to 
seventy or eighty. Now, although it is most probable, from the 
number of eggs found in one district being so extraordinarily great 
in proportion to the parent birds, and likewise from the state of the 
ovarium of the hen, that she may in the course of the season lay a 
large number, yet the time required must be very long. Azara 
states, 14 that a female in a state of domestication laid seventeen eggs, 
each at the interval of three days one from another. If the hen was 
obliged to hatch her own eggs, before the last was laid the first 
probably would be addled; but if each laid a few eggs at successive 
periods, in different nests, and several hens, as is stated to be the case, 
combined together, then the eggs in one collection would be nearly 
of the same age. If the number of eggs in one of these nests is, as I 
believe, not greater on an average than the number laid by one 
female in the season, then there must be as many nests as females, 
and each cock bird will have its fair share of the labour of incuba- 
tion; and that during a period when the females probably could not 
sit, from not having finished laying. 15 I have before mentioned the 
great numbers of huachos, or deserted eggs; so that in one day's 
hunting twenty were found in this state. It appears odd that so many 
should be wasted. Does it not arise from the difficulty of several fe- 
males associating together, and finding a male ready to undertake 
the office of incubation ? It is evident that there must at first be some 
degree of association between at least two females; otherwise the 
eggs would remain scattered over the wide plain, at distances far too 
great to allow of the male collecting them into one nest: some au- 

13 Burchell's Travels, vol. i. p. 280. u Azara, vol. iv. p. 173. 

15 Lichtenstein, however, asserts (Travels, vol. ii. p. 25) that the hens begin sitting 
when they have laid ten or twelve eggs; and that they continue laying, I presume, 
in another nest. This appears to me very improbable. He asserts that four or five 
hens associate for incubation with one cock, who sits only at night. 


thors have believed that the scattered eggs were deposited for the 
young birds to feed on. This can hardly be the case in America, be- 
cause the huachos, although often found addled and putrid, are 
generally whole. 

When at the Rio Negro in Northern Patagonia, I repeatedly 
heard the Gauchos talking of a very rare bird which they called 
Avestruz Petise. They described it as being less than the common 
ostrich (which is there abundant), but with a very close general re- 
semblance. They said its colour was dark and mottled, and that its 
legs were shorter, and feathered lower down than those of the com- 
mon ostrich. It is more easily caught by the bolas than the other 
species. The few inhabitants who had seen both kinds, affirmed 
they could distinguish them apart from a long distance. The eggs 
of the small species appeared, however, more generally known ; and 
it was remarked, with surprise, that they were very little less than 
those of the Rhea, but of a slightly different form, and with a tinge 
of pale blue. This species occurs most rarely on die plains bordering 
the Rio Negro; but about a degree and a half further south they are 
tolerably abundant. When at Port Desire, in Patagonia (lat. 48), 
Mr. Martens shot an ostrich; and I looked at it, forgetting at the 
moment, in the most unaccountable manner, the whole subject of the 
Petises, and thought it was a not full-grown bird of the common sort. 
It was cooked and eaten before my memory returned. Fortunately 
the head, neck, legs, wings, many of the larger feathers, and a large 
part of the skin, had been preserved; and from these a very nearly 
perfect specimen has been put together, and is now exhibited in the 
museum of the Zoological Society. Mr. Gould, in describing this 
new species, has done me the honour of calling it after my name. 

Among the Patagonian Indians in the Strait of Magellan, we 
found a half Indian, who had lived some years with the tribe, but 
had been born in the northern provinces. I asked him if he had 
ever heard of the Avestruz Petise ? He answered by saying, "Why, 
there are none others in these southern countries." He informed 
me that the number of eggs in the nest of the petise is considerably 
less than in that of the other kind, namely, not more than fifteen on 
an average; but he asserted that more than one female deposited 
them. At Santa Cruz we saw several of these birds. They were 


excessively wary: I think they could see a person approaching when 
too far off to be distinguished themselves. In ascending the river 
few were seen; but in our quiet and rapid descent, many, in pairs and 
by fours or fives, were observed. It was remarked that this bird did 
not expand its wings, when first starting at full speed, after the 
manner of the northern kind. In conclusion I may observe, that 
the Struthio rhea inhabits the country of La Plata as far as a little 
south of the Rio Negro in lat 41, and that the Struthio Darwinii 
takes its place in Southern Patagonia; the part about the Rio Negro 
being neutral territory. M. A. d'Orbigny, 16 when at the Rio Negro, 
made great exertions to procure this bird, but never had the good 
fortune to succeed. Dobrizhoffer 17 long ago was aware of there 
being two kinds of ostriches; he says, "You must know, more- 
over, that Emus differ in size and habits in different tracts of land; 
for those that inhabit the plains of Buenos Ayres and Tucuman are 
larger, and have black, white and grey, feathers; those near to the 
Strait of Magellan are smaller and more beautiful, for their white 
feathers are tipped with black at the extremity, and their black ones 
in like manner terminate in white." 

A very singular little bird, Tinochorus rumicivorus, is here com- 
mon: in its habits and general appearance, it nearly equally par- 
takes of the characters, different as they are, of the quail and snipe. 
The Tinochorus is found in the whole of southern South America, 
wherever there are sterile plains, or open dry pasture land. It fre- 
quents in pairs or small flocks the most desolate places, where 
scarcely another living creature can exist. Upon being approached 
they squat close, and then are very difficult to be distinguished from 
the ground. When feeding they walk rather slowly, with their legs 
wide apart. They dust themselves in roads and sandy places, and 
frequent particular spots, where they may be found day after day: 
like partridges, they take wing in a flock. In all these respects, in the 
muscular gizzard adapted for vegetable food, in the arched beak 

16 When at the Rio Negro, we heard much of the indefatigable labours of this 
naturalist. M. Alcide d'Orbigny, during the years 1825 to 1833, traversed several 
large portions of South America, and has made a collection, and is now publishing 
the results on a scale of magnificence, which at once places himself in the list of 
American travellers second only to Humboldt. 

17 Account of the Abipones, A.D. 1749, vol. i. (English translation) p. 314. 


and fleshy nostrils, short legs and form of foot, the Tinochorus has 
a close affinity with quails. But as soon as the bird is seen flying, 
its whole appearance changes; the long pointed wings, so different 
from those in the gallinaceous order, the irregular manner of flight, 
and plaintive cry uttered at the moment of rising, recall the idea of 
a snipe. The sportsmen of the Beagle unanimously called it the short- 
billed snipe. To this genus, or rather to the family of the Waders, 
its skeleton shows that it is really related. 

The Tinochorus is closely related to some other South American 
birds. Two species of the genus Attagis are in almost every respect 
ptarmigans in 'their habits; one lives in Tierra del Fuego, above the 
limits of the forest land; and the other just beneath the snow-line on 
the Cordillera of Central Chile. A bird of another closely allied 
genus, Chionis alba, is an inhabitant of the antarctic regions; it 
feeds on sea-weed and shells on the tidal rocks. Although not web- 
footed, from some unaccountable habit, it is frequently met with far 
out at sea. This small family of birds is one of those which, from 
its varied relations to other families, although at present offering 
only difficulties to the systematic naturalist, ultimately may assist 
in revealing the grand scheme, common to the present and past ages, 
on which organized beings have been created. 

The genus Furnarius contains several species, all small birds, 
living on the ground, and inhabiting open dry countries. In structure 
they cannot be compared to any European form. Ornithologists have 
generally included them among the creepers, although opposed to 
that family in every habit. The best known species is the common 
oven-bird of La Plata, the Casara or housemaker of the Spaniards. 
The nest, whence it takes its name, is placed in the most exposed 
situations, as on the top of a post, a bare rock, or on a cactus. It is 
composed of mud and bits of straw, and has strong thick walls : in 
shape it precisely resembles an oven, or depressed beehive. The 
opening is large and arched, and directly in front, within the nest, 
there is a partition, which reaches nearly to the roof, thus forming 
a passage or antechamber to the true nest. 

Another and smaller species of Furnarius (F. cunicularius), re- 
sembles the oven-bird in the general reddish tint of its plumage, in 
a peculiar shrill reiterated cry, and in an odd manner of running by 


starts. From its affinity, the Spaniards call it Casarita (or little 
housebuilder), although its nidification is quite different. The 
Casarita builds its nest at the bottom of a narrow cylindrical hole, 
which is said to extend horizontally to nearly six feet under ground. 
Several of the country people told me, that when boys, they had at- 
tempted to dig out the nest, but had scarcely ever succeeded in getting 
to the end of the passage. The bird chooses any low bank of firm 
sandy soil by the side of a road or stream. Here (at Bahia Blanca) 
the walls round the houses are built of hardened mud; and I noticed 
that one, which enclosed a courtyard where I lodged, was bored 
through by round holes in a score of places. On asking the owner 
the cause of this, he bitterly complained of the little casarita, several 
of which I afterwards observed at work. It is rather curious to find 
how incapable these birds must be of acquiring any notion of thick- 
ness, for although they were constantly flitting over the low wall, they 
continued vainly to bore through it, thinking it an excellent bank for 
their nests. I do not doubt that each bird, as often as it came to day- 
light on the opposite side, was greatly surprised at the marvellous 

I have already mentioned nearly all the mammalia common in 
this country. Of armadilloes three species occur, namely, the Dasy- 
pus minutus or pichy, the D. villosus or peludo, and the apar. The 
first extends ten degrees further south than any other kind; a fourth 
species, the Mulita, does not come as far south as Bahia Blanca. The 
four species have nearly similar habits; the peludo, however, is noc- 
turnal, while the others wander by day over the open plains, feeding 
on beetles, larvae, roots, and even small snakes. The apar, commonly 
called mataco, is remarkable by having only three moveable bands; 
the rest of its tesselated covering being nearly inflexible. It has the 
power of rolling itself into a perfect sphere, like one kind of English 
woodlouse. In this state it is safe from the attack of dogs; for the 
dog not being able to take the whole in its mouth, tries to bite one 
side, and the ball slips away. The smooth hard covering of the 
mataco offers a better defence than the sharp spines of the hedge- 
hog. The pichy prefers a very dry soil; and the sand-dunes near the 
coast, where for many months it can never taste water, is its favourite 
resort: it often tries to escape notice, by squatting close to the ground. 


In the course of a day's ride, near Bahia Blanca, several were gen- 
erally met with. The instant one was perceived, it was necessary, 
in order to catch it, almost to tumble ofi one's horse; for in soft soil 
the animal burrowed so quickly, that its hinder quarters would 
almost disappear before one could alight. It seems almost a pity to 
kill such nice little animals, for as a Gaucho said, while sharpening 
his knife on the back of one, "Son tan mansos" (they are so quiet) . 

Of reptiles there are many kinds: one snake (a Trigonocephalus, 
or Cophias 18 ) , from the size of the poison channel in its fangs, must 
be very deadly. Cuvier, in opposition to some other naturalists, makes 
this a sub-genus of the rattlesnake, and intermediate between it and 
the viper. In confirmation of this opinion, I observed a fact, which 
appears to me very curious and instructive, as showing how every 
character, even though it may be in some degree independent of 
structure, has a tendency to vary by slow degrees. The extremity of 
the tail of this snake is terminated by a point, which as very slightly 
enlarged; and as the animal glides along, it constantly vibrates the 
last inch; and this part striking against the dry grass and brush- 
wood, produces a rattling noise, which can be distinctly heard at 
the distance of six feet. As often as the animal was irritated or sur- 
prised, its tail was shaken; and the vibrations were extremely rapid. 
Even as long as the body retained its irritability, a tendency to this 
habitual movement was evident. This Trigonocephalus has, there- 
fore, in some respects the structure of a viper, with the habits of a 
rattlesnake: the noise, however, being produced by a simpler device. 
The expression of this snake's face was hideous and fierce; the pupil 
consisted of a vertical slit in a mottled and coppery iris; the jaws were 
broad at the base, and the nose terminated in a triangular projection. 
I do not think I ever saw anything more ugly, excepting, perhaps, 
some of the vampire bats. I imagine this repulsive aspect originates 
from the features being placed in positions, with respect to each 
other, somewhat proportional to those of the human face; and thus 
we obtain a scale of hideousness. 

Amongst the Batrachian reptiles, I found only one little toad 
(Phryniscus nigricans), which was most singular from its colour. 
If we imagine, first, that it had been steeped in the blackest ink, 
18 M. Bibron calls it T. crepitans. 


and then, when dry, allowed to crawl over a board, freshly painted 
with the brightest vermilion, so as to colour the soles of its feet and 
parts of its stomach, a good idea of its appearance will be gained. 
If it had been an unnamed species, surely it ought to have been called 
Diabolicus, for it is a fit toad to preach in the ear of Eve. Instead 
of being nocturnal in its habits, as other toads are, and living in damp 
obscure recesses, it crawls during the heat of the day about the dry 
sand-hillocks and arid plains, where not a single drop of water can 
be found. It must necessarily depend on the dew for its moisture; 
and this probably is absorbed by the skin, for it is known, that these 
reptiles possess great powers of cutaneous absorption. At Maldonado, 
I found one in a situation nearly as dry as at Bahia Blanca, and 
thinking to give it a great treat, carried it to a pool of water; not only 
was the little animal unable to swim, but I think without help it 
would soon have been drowned. 

Of lizards there were many kinds, but only one (Proctotretus 
multimaculatus) remarkable from its habits. It lives on the bare 
sand near the sea coast, and from its mottled colour, the brownish 
scales being speckled with white, yellowish red, and dirty blue, can 
hardly be distinguished from the surrounding surface. When fright- 
ened, it attempts to avoid discovery by feigning death, with out- 
stretched legs, depressed body, and closed eyes: if further molested, 
it buries itself with great quickness in the loose sand. This lizard, 
from its flattened body and short legs, cannot run quickly. 

I will here add a few remarks on the hybernation of animals in 
this part of South America. When we first arrived at Bahia Blanca, 
September yth, 1832, we thought nature had granted scarcely a living 
creature to this sandy and dry country. By digging, however, in the 
ground, several insects, large spiders, and lizards were found in a 
half-torpid state. On the i5th, a few animals began to appear, and 
by the i8th (three days from the equinox), everything announced 
the commencement of spring. The plains were ornamented by the 
flowers of a pink wood-sorrel, wild peas, cenotherae, and geraniums; 
and the birds began to lay their eggs. Numerous Lamellicorn and 
Heteromerous insects, the latter remarkable for their deeply sculp- 
tured bodies, were slowly crawling about; while the lizard tribe, the 
constant inhabitants of a sandy soil, darted about in every direction. 


During the first eleven days, whilst nature was dormant, the mean 
temperature taken from observations made every two hours on 
board the Beagle, was 51; and in the middle of the day the ther- 
mometer seldom ranged above 55. On the eleven succeeding days, 
in which all living things became so animated, the mean was 58, 
and the range in the middle of the day between 60 and 70. Here, 
then, an increase of seven degrees in mean temperature, but a greater 
one of extreme heat, was sufficient to awake the functions of life. 
At Monte Video, from which we had just before sailed, in the twenty- 
three days included between the 26th of July and the ioth of August, 
the mean temperature from 276 observations was 58 .4; the mean 
hottest day being 65. 5, and the coldest 46. The lowest point to 
which the thermometer fell was 41 . 5, and occasionally in the middle 
of the day it rose to 69 or 70. Yet with this high temperature, al- 
most every beetle, several genera of spiders, snails, and land-shells, 
toads and lizards were all lying torpid beneath stones. But we have 
seen that at Bahia Blanca, which is four degrees southward, and 
therefore with a climate only a very little colder, this same tempera- 
ture with a rather less extreme heat, was sufficient to awake all or- 
ders of animated beings. This shows how nicely the stimulus re- 
quired to arouse hybernating animals is governed by the usual 
climate of the district, and not by the absolute heat. It is well known 
that within the tropics, the hybernation, or more properly aestiva- 
tion, of animals is determined not by the temperature, but by the 
times of drought. Near Rio de Janeiro, I was at first surprised to 
observe, that, a few days after some little depressions had been filled 
with water, they were peopled by numerous full-grown shells and 
beetles, which must have been lying dormant. Humboldt has re- 
lated the strange accident of a hovel having been erected over a 
spot where a young crocodile lay buried in the hardened mud. He 
adds, "The Indians often find enormous boas, which they call Uji, 
or water serpents, in the same lethargic state. To reanimate them, 
they must be irritated or wetted with water." 

I will only mention one other animal, a zoophyte (I believe Vir- 
gularia Patagonica), a kind of sea-pen. It consists of a thin, straight, 
fleshy stem, with alternate rows of polyps on each side, and surround- 
ing an elastic stony axis, varying in length from eight inches to two 


feet. The stem at one extremity is truncate, but at the other is ter- 
minated by a vermiform fleshy appendage. The stony axis which 
gives strength to the stem may be traced at this extremity into a 
mere vessel filled with granular matter. At low water hundreds of 
these zoophytes might be seen, projecting like stubble, with the 
truncate end upwards, a few inches above the surface of the muddy 
sand. When touched or pulled they suddenly drew themselves in 
with force, so as nearly or quite to disappear. By this action, the 
highly elastic axis must be bent at the lower extremity, where it is 
naturally slightly curved; and I imagine it is by this elasticity alone 
that the zoophyte is enabled to rise again through the mud. Each 
polypus, though closely united to its brethren, has a distinct mouth, 
body, and tentacula. Of these polypi, in a large specimen, there 
must be many thousands; yet we see that they act by one movement: 
they have also one central axis connected with a system of obscure 
circulation, and the ova are produced in an organ distinct from the 
separate individuals. 19 Well may one be allowed to ask, what is an 
individual? It is always interesting to discover the foundation of 
the strange tales of the old voyagers; and I have no doubt but that 
the habits of this Virgularia explain one such case. Captain Lan- 
caster, in his voyage 20 in 1601, narrates that on the sea-sands of the 
Island of Sombrero, in the East Indies, he "found a small twig grow- 
ing up like a young tree, and on offering to pluck it up it shrinks 
down to the ground, and sinks, unless held very hard. On being 
plucked up, a great worm is found to be its root, and as the tree 
groweth in greatness, so doth the worm diminish; and as soon as the 
worm is entirely turned into a tree it rooteth in the earth, and so be- 

19 The cavities leading from the fleshy compartments of the extremity, were 
filled with a yellow pulpy matter, which, examined under a microscope, presented 
an extraordinary appearance. The mass consisted of rounded, semi-transparent, 
irregular grains, aggregated together into particles of various sizes. All such particles, 
and the separate grains, possessed the power of rapid movement; generally revolving 
around different axes, but sometimes progressive. The movement was visible with 
a very weak power, but even with the highest its cause could not be perceived. It 
was very different from the circulation of the fluid in the elastic bag, containing the 
thin extremity of the axis. On other occasions, when dissecting small marine animals 
beneath the microscope, I have seen particles of pulpy matter, some of large size, 
as soon as they were disengaged, commence revolving. I have imagined, I know not 
with how much truth, that this granulo-pulpy matter was in process of being 
converted into ova. Certainly in this zoophyte such appeared to be the case. 

20 Kerr's Collection of Voyages, vol. viii. p. 119. 


comes great. This transformation is one of the strangest wonders 
that I saw in all my travels: for if this tree is plucked up, while 
young, and the leaves and bark stripped off, it becomes a hard stone 
when dry, much like white coral: thus is this worm twice trans- 
formed into different natures. Of these we gathered and brought 
home many." 

During my stay at Bahia Blanca, while waiting for the Beagle, the 
place was in a constant state of excitement, from rumours of wars and 
victories, between the troops of Rosas and the wild Indians. One 
day an account came that a small party forming one of the postas on 
the line to Buenos Ayres, had been found all murdered. The next 
day three hundred men arrived from the Colorado, under the com- 
mand of Commandant Miranda. A large portion of these men were 
Indians (mansos, or tame), belonging to the tribe of the Cacique 
Bernantio. They passed the night here; and it was impossible to 
conceive anything more wild and savage than the scene of their 
bivouac. Some drank till they were intoxicated; others swallowed 
the steaming blood of the cattle slaughtered for their suppers, and 
then, being sick from drunkenness, they cast it up again, and were 
besmeared with filth and gore. 

Nam simul expletus dapibus, vinoque sepultus 
Cervicem inflexam posuit, jacuitque per antrum 
Immensus, saniem eructans, ac frusta cruenta 
Per somnum commixta mero. 

In the morning they started for the scene of the murder, with or- 
ders to follow the "rastro," or track, even if it led them to Chile. We 
subsequently heard that the wild Indians had escaped into the great 
Pampas, and from some cause the track had been missed. One glance 
at the rastro tells these people a whole history. Supposing they ex- 
amine the track of a thousand horses, they will soon guess the num- 
ber of mounted ones by seeing how many have cantered; by the depth 
of the other impressions, whether any horses were loaded with car- 
goes; by the irregularity of the footsteps, how far tired; by the man- 
ner in which the food has been cooked, whether the pursued travelled 
in haste; by the general appearance, how long it has been since they 
passed. They consider a rastro of ten days or a fortnight, quite 


recent enough to be hunted out. We also heard that Miranda struck 
from the west end of the Sierra Ventana, in a direct line to the island 
of Cholechel, situated seventy leagues up the Rio Negro. This is a 
distance of between two and three hundred miles, through a country 
completely unknown. What other troops in the world are so inde- 
pendent? With the sun for their guide, mare's flesh for food, their 
saddle-cloths for beds, as long as there is a little water, these men 
would penetrate to the end of the world. 

A few days afterwards I saw another troop of these banditti-like 
soldiers start on an expedition against a tribe of Indians at the small 
Salinas, who had been betrayed by a prisoner cacique. The Spaniard 
who brought the orders for this expedition was a very intelligent 
man. He gave me an account of the last engagement at which he was 
present. Some Indians, who had been taken prisoners, gave informa- 
tion of a tribe living north of the Colorado. Two hundred soldiers 
were sent; and they first discovered the Indians by a cloud of dust 
from their horses' feet, as they chanced to be travelling. The country 
was mountainous and wild, and it must have been far in the interior, 
for the Cordillera were in sight. The Indians, men, women, and 
children, were about one hundred and ten in number, and they 
were nearly all taken or killed, for the soldiers sabre every man. The 
Indians are now so terrified that they offer no resistance in a body, 
but each flies, neglecting even his wife and children; but when over- 
taken, like wild animals, they fight against any number to the last 
moment. One dying Indian seized with his teeth the thumb of his 
adversary, and allowed his own eye to be forced out sooner than re- 
linquish his hold. Another, who was wounded, feigned death, keep- 
ing a knife ready to strike one more fatal blow. My informer said, 
when he was pursuing an Indian, the man cried out for mercy, at 
the same time that he was covertly loosing the bolas from his waist, 
meaning to whirl it round his head and so strike his pursuer. "I 
however struck him with my sabre to the ground, and then got of! 
my horse, and cut his throat with my knife." This is a dark picture; 
but how much more shocking is the unquestionable fact, that all the 
women who appear above twenty years old are massacred in cold 
blood! When I exclaimed that this appeared rather inhuman, he 
answered, "Why, what can be done? they breed so!" 


Every one here is fully convinced that this is the most just war, 
because it is against barbarians. Who would believe in this age that 
such atrocities could be committed in a Christian civilized country ? 
The children of the Indians are saved, to be sold or given away as 
servants, or rather slaves for as long a time as the owners can make 
them believe themselves slaves; but I believe in their treatment 
there is little to complain of. 

In the battle four men ran away together. They were pursued, 
one was killed, and the other three were taken alive. They turned out 
to be messengers or ambassadors from a large body of Indians, 
united in the common cause of defence, near the Cordillera. The 
tribe to which they had been sent was on the point of holding a 
grand council; the feast of mare's flesh was ready, and the dance 
prepared : in the morning the ambassadors were to have returned to 
the Cordillera. They were remarkably fine men, very fair, above six 
feet high, and all under thirty years of age. The three survivors of 
course possessed very valuable information; and to extort this they 
were placed in a line. The two first being questioned, answered, 
"No se" (I do not know), and were one after the other shot. The 
third also said "No se;" adding, "Fire, I am a man, and can die!" 
Not one syllable would they breathe to injure the united cause of 
their country! The conduct of the above-mentioned cacique was very 
different; he saved his life by betraying the intended plan of warfare, 
and the point of union in the Andes. It was believed that there were 
already six or seven hundred Indians together, and that in summer 
their numbers would be doubled. Ambassadors were to have been 
sent to the Indians at the small Salinas, near Bahia Blanca, whom I 
have mentioned that this same cacique had betrayed. The communi- 
cation, therefore, between the Indians, extends from the Cordillera 
to the coast of the Atlantic. 

General Rosas's plan is -to kill all stragglers, and having driven the 
remainder to a common point, to attack them in a body, in the sum- 
mer, with the assistance of the Chilenos. This operation is to be re- 
peated for three successive years. I imagine the summer is chosen as 
the time for the main attack, because the plains are then without 
water, and the Indians can only travel in particular directions. The 
escape of the Indians to the south of the Rio Negro, where in such 


a vast unknown country they would be safe, is prevented by a treaty 
with the Tehuelches to this effect; that Rosas pays them so much 
to slaughter every Indian who passes to the south of the river, but if 
they fail in so doing, they themselves are to be exterminated. The 
war is waged chiefly against the Indians near the Cordillera; for 
many of the tribes on this eastern side are fighting with Rosas. The 
general, however, like Lord Chesterfield, thinking that his friends 
may in a future day become his enemies, always places them in the 
front ranks, so that their numbers may be thinned. Since leaving 
South America we have heard that this war of extermination com- 
pletely failed. 

Among the captive girls taken in the same engagement, there 
were two very pretty Spanish ones, who had been carried away by 
the Indians when young, and could now only speak the Indian 
tongue. From their account they must have come from Salta, a dis- 
tance in a straight line of nearly one thousand miles. This gives one 
a grand idea of the immense territory over which the Indians roam: 
yet, great as it is, I think there will not, in another half-century, be 
a wild Indian northward of the Rio Negro. The warfare is too 
bloody to last; the Christians killing every Indian, and the Indians 
doing the same by the Christians. It is melancholy to trace how the 
Indians have given way before the Spanish invaders. Schirdel 21 says 
that in 1535, when Buenos Ayres was founded, there were villages 
containing two and three thousand inhabitants. Even in Falconer's 
time (1750) the Indians made inroads as far as Luxan, Areco, and 
Arrecife, but now they are driven beyond the Salado. Not only have 
whole tribes been exterminated, but the remaining Indians have be- 
come more barbarous: instead of living in large villages, and being 
employed in the arts of fishing, as well as of the chase, they now 
wander about the open plains, without home or fixed occupation. 

I heard also some account of an engagement which took place, a 
few weeks previously to the one mentioned, at Cholechel. This is a 
very important station on account of being a pass for horses; and it 
was, in consequence, for some time the head-quarters of a divi- 
sion of the army. When the troops first arrived there they found a 
tribe of Indians, of whom they killed twenty or thirty. The cacique 

21 Purchas's Collection of Voyages. I believe the date was really 1537. 


escaped in a manner which astonished every one. The chief Indians 
always have one or two picked horses, which they keep ready for any 
urgent occasion. On one of these, an old white horse, the cacique 
sprung, taking with him his little son. The horse had neither saddle 
nor bridle. To avoid the shots, the Indian rode in the peculiar method 
of his nation; namely, with an arm round the horse's neck, and one 
leg only on its back. Thus hanging on one side, he was seen patting 
the horse's head, and talking to him. The pursuers urged every effort 
in the chase; the Commandant three times changed his horse, but all 
in vain. The old Indian father and his son escaped, and were free. 
What a fine picture one can form in one's mind, the naked, bronze- 
like figure of the old man with his little boy, riding like a Mazeppa 
on the white horse, thus leaving far behind him the host of his pur- 

I saw one day a soldier striking fire with a piece of flint, which I 
immediately recognised as having been a part of the head of an 
arrow. He told me it was found near the island of Cholechel, and 
that they are frequently picked up there. It was between two and 
three inches long, and therefore twice as large as those now used in 
Tierra del Fuego: it was made of opaque cream-coloured flint, but 
the point and barbs had been intentionally broken of?. It is well 
known that no Pampas Indians now use bows and arrows. I be- 
lieve a small tribe in Banda Oriental must be excepted; but they are 
widely separated from the Pampas Indians, and border close on those 
tribes that inhabit the forest, and live on foot. It appears, therefore, 
that these arrow-heads are antiquarian 22 relics of the Indians, before 
the great change in habits consequent on the introduction of the 
horse into South America. 

22 Azara has even doubted whether the Pampas Indians ever used bows. 


Set out for Buenos Ayres Rio Sauce Sierra Ventana Third Posta 
Driving Horses Bolas Partridges and Foxes Features of the Coun- 
try Long-legged Plover Teru-tero Hail-storm Natural Enclosures 
in the Sierra Tapalguen Flesh of Puma Meat Diet Guard ia del 
Monte Effects of Cattle on the Vegetation Cardoon Buenos Ayres 
Corral where Cattle are Slaughtered. 

f^EPTEMBER i8th. I hired a Gaucho to accompany me on 
\ my ride to Buenos Ayres, though with some difficulty, as 
A^J the father of one man was afraid to let him go, and another, 
who seemed willing, was described to me as so fearful, that I was 
afraid to take him, for I was told that even if he saw an ostrich at 
a distance, he would mistake it for an Indian, and would fly like the 
wind away. The distance to Buenos Ayres is about four hundred 
miles, and nearly the whole way through an uninhabited country. 
We started early in the morning; ascending a few hundred feet from 
the basin of green turf on which Bahia Blanca stands, we entered 
on a wide desolate plain. It consists of a crumbling argillaceo-cal- 
careous rock, which, from the dry nature of the climate, supports 
only scattered tufts of withered grass, without a single bush or tree to 
break the monotonous uniformity. The weather was fine, but the 
atmosphere remarkably hazy; I thought the appearance foreboded 
a gale, but the Gauchos said it was owing to the plain, at some great 
distance in the interior, being on fire. After a long gallop, having 
changed horses twice, we reached the Rio Sauce: it is a deep, rapid, 
little stream, not above twenty-five feet wide. The second posta on 
the road to Buenos Ayres stands on its banks; a little above there is 
a ford for horses, where the water does not reach to the horses' belly; 
but from that point, in its course to the sea, it is quite impassable, 
and hence makes a most useful barrier against the Indians. 

Insignificant as this stream is, the Jesuit Falconer, whose informa- 
tion is generally so very correct, figures it as a considerable river, 



rising at the foot of the Cordillera. With respect to its source, I do 
not doubt that this is the case; for the Gauchos assured me, that in 
the middle of the dry summer, this stream, at the same time with the 
Colorado, has periodical floods; which can only originate in the snow 
melting on the Andes. It is extremely improbable that a stream so 
small as the Sauce then was, should traverse the entire width of the 
continent; and indeed, if it were the residue of a large river, its waters, 
as in other ascertained cases, would be saline. During the winter we 
must look to the springs round the Sierra Ventana as the source of its 
pure and limpid stream. I suspect the plains of Patagonia, like those 
of Australia, are traversed by many water-courses, which only per- 
form their proper parts at certain periods. Probably this is the case 
with the water which flows into the head of Port Desire, and like- 
wise with the Rio Chupat, on the banks of which masses of highly 
cellular scoriae were found by the officers employed in the survey. 

As it was early in the afternoon when we arrived, we took fresh 
horses, and a soldier for a guide, and started for the Sierra de la 
Ventana. This mountain is visible from the anchorage at Bahia 
Blanca; and Capt. Fitz Roy calculates its height to be 3340 feet an 
altitude very remarkable on this eastern side of the continent. I am 
not aware that any foreigner, previous to my visit, had ascended this 
mountain; and indeed very few of the soldiers at Bahia Blanca knew 
anything about it. Hence we heard of beds of coal, of gold and sil- 
ver, of caves, and of forests, all of which inflamed my curiosity, 
only to disappoint it. The distance from the posta was about six 
leagues, over a level plain of the same character as before. The ride 
was, however, interesting, as the mountain began to show its true 
form. When we reached the foot of the main ridge, we had much 
difficulty in finding any water, and we thought we should have been 
obliged to have passed the night without any. At last we discovered 
some by looking close to the mountain, for at the distance even of a 
few hundred yards, the streamlets were buried and entirely lost in 
the friable calcareous stone and loose detritus. I do not think Nature 
ever made a more solitary, desolate pile of rock; it well deserves 
its name of Hurtado, or separated. The mountain is steep, extremely 
rugged, and broken, and so entirely destitute of trees, and even 
bushes, that we actually could not make a skewer to stretch out our 


meat over the fire of thistle-stalks. 1 The strange aspect of this moun- 
tain is contrasted by the sea-like plain, which not only abuts against 
its steep sides, but -likewise separates the parallel ranges. The uni- 
formity of the colouring gives an extreme quietness to the view; 
the whitish grey of the quartz rock, and the light brown of the 
withered grass of the plain, being unrelieved by any brighter tint. 
From custom, one expects to see in the neighbourhood of a lofty and 
bold mountain, a broken country strewed over with huge frag- 
ments. Here nature shows that the last movement before the bed of 
the sea is changed into dry land may sometimes be one of tranquil- 
lity. Under these circumstances I was curious to observe how far 
from the parent rock any pebbles could be found. On the shores of 
Bahia Blanca, and near the settlement, there were some of quartz, 
which certainly must have come from this source: the distance is 
forty-five miles. 

The dew, which in the early part of the night wetted the saddle- 
cloths under which we slept, was in the morning frozen. The plain, 
though appearing horizontal, had insensibly sloped up to a height of 
between 800 and 900 feet above the sea. In the morning (9th of 
September) the guide told me to ascend the nearest ridge, which he 
thought would lead me to the four peaks that crown the summit. 
The climbing up such rough rocks was very fatiguing; the sides 
were so indented, that what was gained in one five minutes was often 
lost in the next. At last, when I reached the ridge, my disappoint- 
ment was extreme in finding a precipitous valley as deep as the plain, 
which cut the chain transversely in two, and separated me from the 
four points. This valley is very narrow, but flat-bottomed, and it 
forms a fine horse-pass for the Indians, as it connects the plains on 
the northern and southern sides of the range. Having descended, 
and while crossing it, I saw two horses grazing: I immediately hid 
myself in the long grass, and began to reconnoitre; but as I could see 
no signs of Indians I proceeded cautiously on my second ascent. It 
was late in the day, and this part of the mountain, like the other, was 
steep and rugged. I was on the top of the second peak by two 
o'clock, but got there with extreme difficulty; every twenty yards I 

l l call these thistle-stalks for the want of a more correct name. I believe it is a 
species of Eryngium. 


had the cramp in the upper part of both thighs, so that I was afraid 
I should not have been able to have got down again. It was also 
necessary to return by another road, as it was out of the question to 
pass over the saddle-back. I was therefore obliged to give up the two 
higher peaks. Their altitude was but little greater, and every pur- 
pose of geology had been answered; so that the attempt was not 
worth the hazard of any further exertion. I presume the cause of the 
cramp was the great change in the kind of muscular action, from that 
of hard riding to that of still harder climbing. It is a lesson worth 
remembering, as in some cases it might cause much difficulty. 

I have already said the mountain is composed of white quartz 
rock, and with it a little glossy clay-slate is associated. At the height 
of a few hundred feet above the plain, patches of conglomerate ad- 
hered in several places to the solid rock. They resembled in hardness, 
and in the nature of the cement, the masses which may be seen daily 
forming on some coasts. I do not doubt these pebbles were in a 
similar manner aggregated, at a period when the great calcareous 
formation was depositing beneath the surrounding sea. We may be- 
lieve that the jagged and battered forms of the hard quartz yet show 
the effects of the waves of an open ocean. 

I was, on the whole, disappointed with this ascent. Even the view 
was insignificant; a plain like the sea, but without its beautiful 
colour and defined outline. The scene, however, was novel, and a 
little danger, like salt to meat, gave it a relish. That the danger was 
very little was certain, for my two companions made a good fire a 
thing which is never done when it is suspected that Indians are near. 
I reached the place of our bivouac by sunset, and drinking much 
mate, and smoking several cigaritos, soon made up my bed for the 
night. The wind was very strong and cold, but I never slept more 

September loth. In the morning, having fairly scudded before the 
gale, we arrived by the middle of the day at the Sauce posta. On the 
road we saw great numbers of deer and near the mountain, a gua- 
naco. The plain, which abuts against the Sierra, is traversed by some 
curious gullies, of which one was about twenty feet wide, and at 
least thirty deep; we were obliged in consequence to make a consid- 
erable circuit before we could find a pass. We stayed the night at 


the posta, the conversation, as was generally the case, being about the 
Indians. The Sierra Ventana was formerly a great place of resort; 
and three or four years ago there was much fighting there. My 
guide had been present when many Indians were killed: the women 
escaped to the top of the ridge, and fought most desperately with 
great stones; many thus saving themselves. 

September nth. Proceeded to the third posta in company with 
the lieutenant who commanded it. The distance is called fifteen 
leagues; but it is only guess-work, and is generally overstated. The 
road was uninteresting, over a dry grassy plain; and on our left hand 
at a greater or less distance there were some low hills; a continuation 
of which we crossed close to the posta. Before our arrival, we met 
a large herd of cattle and horses, guarded by fifteen soldiers; but we 
were told many had been lost. It is very difficult to drive animals 
across the plains; for if in the night a puma, or even a fox, approaches, 
nothing can prevent the horses dispersing in every direction; and a 
storm will have the same effect. A short time since, an officer left 
Buenos Ayres with five hundred horses, and when he arrived at the 
army he had under twenty. 

Soon afterwards we perceived by the cloud of dust, that a party 
of horsemen were coming towards us; when far distant my com- 
panions knew them to be Indians, by their long hair streaming be- 
hind their backs. The Indians generally have a fillet round their 
heads, but never any covering; and their black hair blowing across 
their swarthy faces, heightens to an uncommon degree the wildness 
of their appearance. They turned out to be a party of Bernantio's 
friendly tribe, going to a salina for salt. The Indians eat much salt, 
their children sucking it like sugar. This habit is very different 
from that of the Spanish Gauchos, who, leading the same kind of 
life, eat scarcely any; according to Mungo Park, 2 it is people who 
live on vegetable food who have an unconquerable desire for salt. 
The Indians gave us good-humoured nods as they passed at full 
gallop, driving before them a troop of horses, and followed by a train 
of lanky dogs. 

September I2th and ijth. I stayed at this posta two days, waiting 
for a troop of soldiers, which General Rosas had the kindness to 

2 Travels in Africa, p. 233. 


send to inform me, would shortly travel to Buenos Ay res; and he 
advised me to take the opportunity of the escort. In the morning we 
rode to some neighbouring hills to view the country, and to examine 
the geology. After dinner the soldiers divided themselves into two 
parties for a trial of skill with the bolas. Two spears were stuck in 
the ground twenty-five yards apart, but they were struck and en- 
tangled only once in four or five times. The balls can be thrown 
fifty or sixty yards, but with little certainty. This, however, does not 
apply to a man on horseback; for when the speed of the horse is 
added to the force of the arm, it is said, that they can be whirled 
with effect to the distance of eighty yards. As a proof of their force, 
I may mention, that at the Falkland Islands, when the Spaniards 
murdered some of their own countrymen and all the Englishmen, a 
young friendly Spaniard was running away, when a great tall man, 
by name Luciano, came at full gallop after him, shouting to him to 
stop, and saying that he only wanted to speak to him. Just as the 
Spaniard was on the point of reaching the boat, Luciano threw the 
balls: they struck him on the legs with such a jerk, as to throw him 
down and to render him for some time insensible. The man, after 
Luciano had had his talk, was allowed to escape. He told us that his 
legs were marked by great weals, where the thong had wound round, 
as if he had been flogged with a whip. In the middle of the day two 
men arrived, who brought a parcel from the next posta to be for- 
warded to the general: so that besides these two, our party consisted 
this evening of my guide and self, the lieutenant, and his four soldiers. 
The latter were strange beings; the first a fine young negro; the 
second half Indian and negro; and the two others nondescripts; 
namely, an old Chilian miner, the colour of mahogany, and another 
partly a mulatto; but two such mongrels, with such detestable ex- 
pressions, I never saw before. At night, when they were sitting round 
the fire, and playing at cards, I retired to view such a Salvator Rosa 
scene. They were seated under a low clirf, so that I could look down 
upon them; around the party were lying dogs, arms, remnants of 
deer and ostriches; and their long spears were stuck in the turf. 
Further in the dark background, their horses were tied up, ready for 
any sudden danger. If the stillness of the desolate plain was broken 
by one of the dogs barking, a soldier, leaving the fire, would place his 


head close to the ground, and thus slowly scan the-horizon. Even if 
the noisy teru-tero uttered its scream, there would be a pause in the 
conversation, and every head, for a moment, a little inclined. 

What a life of misery these men appear to us to lead ! They were 
at least ten leagues from the Sauce posta, and since the murder com- 
mitted by the Indians, twenty from another. The Indians are sup- 
posed to have made their attack in the middle of the night; for very 
early in the morning after the murder, they were luckily seen ap- 
proaching this posta. The whole party here, however, escaped, to- 
gether with the troop of horses; each one taking a line for him- 
self, and driving with him as many animals as he was able to 

The little hovel, built of thistle-stalks, in which they slept, neither 
kept out the wind nor rain; indeed in the latter case the only effect 
the roof had, was to condense it into larger drops. They had nothing 
to eat excepting what they could catch, such as ostriches, deer, arma- 
dilloes, etc., and their only fuel was the dry stalks of a small plant, 
somewthat resembling an aloe. The sole luxury which these men 
enjoyed was smoking the little paper cigars, and sucking .mate. I 
used to think that the carrion vultures, man's constant attendants 
on these dreary plains, while seated on the little neighbouring cliffs 
seemed by their very patience to say, "Ah! when the Indians come 
we shall have a feast." 

In the morning we all sallied forth to hunt, and although we had 
not much success, there were some animated chases. Soon after 
starting the party separated, and so arranged their plans, that at a 
certain time of the day (in guessing which they show much skill) 
they should all meet from different points of the compass on a plain 
piece of ground, and thus drive together the wild animals. One 
day I went out hunting at Bahia Blanca, but the men there merely 
rode in a crescent, each being about a quarter of a mile apart from 
the other. A fine male ostrich being turned by the headmost riders, 
tried to escape on one side. The Gauchos pursued at a reckless pace, 
twisting their horses about with the most admirable command, and 
each man whirling the balls round his head. At length the foremost 
threw them, revolving through the air: in an instant the ostrich 
rolled over and over, its legs fairly lashed together by the thong. 


The plains abound with three kinds of partridge, 3 two of which 
are as large as hen pheasants. Their destroyer, a small and pretty 
fox, was also singularly numerous; in the course of the day we could 
not have seen less than forty or fifty. They were generally near their 
earths, but the dogs killed one. When we returned to the posta, we 
found two of the party returned who had been hunting by them- 
selves. They had killed a puma, and had found an ostrich's nest 
with twenty-seven eggs in it. Each of these is said to equal in weight 
eleven hen's eggs; so that we obtained from this one nest as much 
food as 297 hen's eggs would have given. 

September iqth. As the soldiers belonging to the next posta 
meant to return, and we should together make a party of five, and 
all armed, I determined not to wait for the expected troops. My host, 
the lieutenant, pressed me much to stop. As he had been very oblig- 
ing not only providing me with food, but lending me his private 
horses I wanted to make him some remuneration. I asked my guide 
whether I might do so, but he told me certainly not; that the only 
answer I should receive, probably would be, "We -have meat for the 
dogs in our country, and therefore do not grudge it to a Christian." 
It must not be supposed that the rank of lieutenant in such an army 
would at all prevent the acceptance of payment: it was only the high 
sense of hospitality, which every traveller is bound to acknowledge as 
nearly universal throughout these provinces. After galloping some 
leagues, we came to a low swampy country, which extends for nearly 
eighty miles northward, as far as the Sierra Tapalguen. In some 
parts there were fine damp plains, covered with grass, while others 
had a soft, black, and peaty soil. There were also many extensive 
but shallow lakes, and large beds of reeds. The country on the whole 
resembled the better parts of the Cambridgeshire fens. At night we 
had some difficulty in finding amidst the swamps, a dry place for our 

September i$th. Rose very early in the morning and shortly 
after passed the posta where the Indians had murdered the five 
soldiers. The officer had eighteen chuzo wounds in his body. By the 
middle of the day, after a hard gallop, we reached the fifth posta: on 

3 Two species of Tinamus, and Eudromia elegans of A. d'Orbigny, which can only 
be called a partridge with regard to its habits. 


account of some difficulty in procuring horses we stayed there the 
night. As this point was the most exposed on the whole line, 
twenty-one soldiers were stationed here; at sunset they returned from 
hunting, bringing with them seven deer, three ostriches, and many 
armadilloes and partridges. When riding through the country, it is 
a common practice to set fire to the plain; and hence at night, as on 
this occasion, the horizon was illuminated in several places by bril- 
liant conflagrations. This is done partly for the sake of puzzling any 
stray Indians, but chiefly for improving the pasture. In grassy plains 
unoccupied by the larger ruminating quadrupeds, it seems necessary 
to remove the superfluous vegetation by fire, so as to render the new 
year's growth serviceable. 

The rancho at this place did not boast even of a roof, but merely 
consisted of a ring of thistle-stalks, to break the force of the wind. 
It was situated on the borders of an extensive but shallow lake, 
swarming with wild fowl, among which the black-necked swan was 

The kind of plover, which appears as if mounted on stilts (Himan- 
topus nigricollis), is here common in flocks of considerable size. It 
has been wrongfully accused of inelegance; when wading about in 
shallow water, which is its favourite resort, its gait is far from 
awkward. These birds in a flock utter a noise, that singularly resem- 
bles the cry of a pack of small dogs in full chase: waking in the 
night, I have more than once been for a moment startled at the dis- 
tant sound. The teru-tero (Vanellus cayanus) is another bird, which 
often disturbs the stillness of the night. In appearance and habits it 
resembles in many respects our peewits; its wings, however, are 
armed with sharp spurs, like those on the legs of the common cock. 
As our peewit takes its name from the sound of its voice, so does the 
teru-tero. While riding over the grassy plains, one is constantly pur- 
sued by these birds, which appear to hate mankind, and I am sure 
deserve to be hated for their never-ceasing, unvaried, harsh screams. 
To the sportsman they are most annoying, by telling every other 
bird and animal of his approach: to the traveller in the country, they 
may possibly, as Molina says, do good, by warning him of the mid- 
night robber. During the breeding season, they attempt, like our 
peewits, by feigning to be wounded, to draw away from their nests 


dogs and other enemies. The eggs of this bird are esteemed a great 

September i6th.To the seventh posta at the foot of the Sierra 
Tapalguen. The country was quite level, with a coarse herbage and 
a soft peaty soil. The hovel was here remarkably neat, the posts 
and rafters being made of about a dozen dry thistle-stalks bound 
together with thongs of hide; and by the support of these Ionic-like 
columns, the roof and sides were thatched with reeds. We were here 
told a fact, which I would not have credited, if I had not had partly 
ocular proof of it; namely, that, during the previous night hail as 
large as small apples, and extremely hard, had fallen with such 
violence, as to kill the greater number of the wild animals. One of 
the men had already found thirteen deer (Cervus campestris) lying 
dead, and I saw their fresh hides; another of the party, a few minutes 
after my arrival, brought in seven more. Now I well know, that one 
man without dogs could hardly have killed seven deer in a week. 
The men believed they had seen about fifteen ostriches (part of one 
of which we had for dinner); and they said that several were 
running about evidently blind in one eye. Numbers of smaller 
birds, as ducks, hawks, and partridges, were killed. I saw one of the 
latter with a black mark on its back, as if it had been struck with a 
paving-stone. A fence of thistle-stalks round the hovel was nearly 
broken down, and my informer, putting his head out to see what was 
the matter, received a severe cut, and now wore a bandage. The 
storm was said to have been of limited extent : we certainly saw from 
our last night's bivouac a dense cloud and lightning in this direction. 
It is marvellous how such strong animals as deer could thus have 
been killed; but I have no doubt, from the evidence I have given, 
that the story is not in the least exaggerated. I am glad, however, 
to have its credibility supported by the Jesuit DobrizhofTen, 4 who, 
speaking of a country much to the northward, says, hail fell of an 
enormous size and killed vast numbers of cattle: the Indians hence 
called the place Lalegraicavalca, meaning "the little white things." 
Dr. Malcolmson, also, informs me that he witnessed in 1831 in 
India, a hail-storm, which killed numbers of large birds and much 
injured the cattle. These hailstones were flat, and one was ten inches 

4 History of the Abipones, vol. ii. p. 6. 


in circumference, and another weighed two ounces. They ploughed 
up a gravel-walk like musket-balls, and passed through glass-win- 
dows, making round holes, but not cracking them. 

Having finished our dinner, of hail-stricken meat, we crossed the 
Sierra Tapalguen; a low range of hills, a few hundred feet in 
height, which commences at Cape Corrientes. The rock in this part 
is pure quartz; further eastward I understand it is granitic. The 
hills are of a remarkable form; they consist of flat patches of table- 
land, surrounded by low perpendicular cliflfs, like the outliers of a 
sedimentary deposit. The hill which I ascended was very small, not 
above a couple of hundred yards in diameter; but I saw others 
larger. One which goes by the name of the "Corral," is said to be 
two or three miles in diameter, and encompassed by perpendicular 
cliffs, between thirty and forty feet high, excepting at one spot, where 
the entrance lies. Falconer 5 gives a curious account of the Indians 
driving troops of wild horses into it, and then by guarding the 
entrance, keeping them secure. I have never heard of any other in- 
stance of table-land in a formation of quartz, and which, in the hill I 
examined, had neither cleavage nor stratification. I was told that the 
rock of the "Corral" was white, and would strike fire. 

We did not reach the posta on the Rio Tapalguen till after it was 
dark. At supper, from something which was said, I was suddenly 
struck with horror at thinking that I was eating one of the favourite 
dishes of the country, namely, a half-formed calf, long before its 
proper time of birth. It turned out to be Puma; the meat is very 
white, and remarkably like veal in taste. Dr. Shaw was laughed at 
for stating that "the flesh of the lion is in great esteem, having no 
small affinity with veal, both in colour, taste, and flavour." Such 
certainly is the case with the Puma. The Gauchos differ in their 
opinion, whether the Jaguar is good eating, but are unanimous in 
saying that cat is excellent. 

September ijth. We followed the course of the Rio Tapalguen, 
through a very fertile country, to the ninth posta. Tapalguen, itself, 
or the town of Tapalguen, if it may be so called, consists of a per- 
fectly level plain, studded over, as far as the eye can reach, with 
the toldos or oven-shaped huts of the Indians. The families of the 

5 Falconer's Patagonia, p. 70. 


friendly Indians, who were fighting on the side of Rosas, resided 
here. We met and passed many young Indian women, riding by 
two or three together on the same horse: they, as well as many of 
the young men, were strikingly handsome, their fine ruddy com- 
plexions being the picture of health. Besides the toldos, there were 
three ranches; one inhabited by the Commandant, and the two 
others by Spaniards with small shops. 

We were here able to buy some biscuit. I had now been seveial 
days without tasting anything besides meat: I did not at all dislike 
this new regimen; but I felt as if it would only have agreed with me 
with hard exercise. I have heard that patients in England, when 
desired to confine themselves exclusively to an animal diet, even with 
the hope of life before their eyes, have hardly been able to endure it. 
Yet the Gaucho in the Pampas, for months together, touches nothing 
but beef. But they eat, I observe, a very large proportion of fat, 
which is of a less animalized nature; and they particularly dislike dry 
meat, such as that of the Agouti. Dr. Richardson, 6 also, has re- 
marked, "that when people have fed for a long time solely upon lean 
animal food, the desire for fat becomes so insatiable, that they can 
consume a large quantity of unmixed and even oily fat without 
nausea:" this appears to me a curious physiological fact. It is, per- 
haps, from their meat regimen that the Gauchos, like other carniv- 
orous animals, can abstain long from food. I was told that at 
Tandeel, some troops voluntarily pursued a party of Indians for 
three days, without eating or drinking. 

We saw in the shops many articles, such as horsecloths, belts, and 
garters, woven by the Indian women. The patterns were very pretty, 
and the colours brilliant; the workmanship of the garters was so 
good that an English merchant at Buenos Ayres maintained they 
must have been manufactured in England, till he found the tassels 
had been fastened by split sinew. 

September i8th.We had a very long ride this day. At the twelfth 
posta, which is seven leagues south of the Rio Salado, we came to 
the first estancia with cattle and white women. Afterwards we had 
to ride for many miles through a country flooded with water above 
our horses' knees. By crossing the stirrups, and riding Arab-like with 
6 Fauna Boreali-Americana, vol. i. p. 35. 


our legs bent up, we contrived to keep tolerably dry. It was nearly 
dark when we arrived at the Salado; the stream was deep, and about 
forty yards wide; in summer, however, its bed becomes almost dry, 
and the little remaining water nearly as salt as that of the sea. We 
slept at one of the great estancias of General Rosas. It was fortified, 
and of such an extent, that arriving in the dark I thought it was a 
town and fortress. In the morning we saw immense herds of cattle, 
the general here having seventy-four square leagues of land. For- 
merly nearly three hundred men were employed about this estate, 
and they defied all the attacks of the Indians. 

September iqth. Passed the Guardia del Monte. This is a nice 
scattered little town, with many gardens, full of peach and quince 
trees. The plain here looked like that around Buenos Ay res; the turf 
being short and bright green, with beds of clover and thistles, and 
with bizcacha holes. I was very much struck with the marked 
change in the aspect of the country after having crossed the Salado. 
From a coarse herbage we passed on to a carpet of fine green ver- 
dure. I at first attributed this to some change in the nature of the soil, 
but the inhabitants assured me that here, as well as in Banda Oriental, 
where there is as great a difference between the country round Monte 
Video and the thinly-inhabited savannahs of Colonia, the whole was 
to be attributed to the manuring and grazing of the cattle. Exactly 
the same fact has been observed in the prairies 7 of North America, 
where coarse grass, between five and six feet high, when grazed by 
cattle, changes into common pasture land. I am not botanist enough 
to say whether the change here is owing to the introduction of new 
species, to the altered growth of the same, or to a difference in their 
proportional numbers. Azara has also observed with astonishment 
this change: he is likewise much perplexed by the immediate appear- 
ance of plants not occurring in the neighbourhood, on the borders of 
any track that leads to a newly-constructed hovel. In another part he 
says, 8 "ces chevaux (sauvages) ont la manie de preferer les chemins, 
et le bord des routes pour deposer leurs excremens, dont on trouve 
des monceaux dans ces endroits." Does this not partly explain the 

7 See Mr. Atwater's account of the Prairies, in Silliman's N. A. Journal, vol. i. p. 117. 

8 Azara's Voyages, vol. i. p. 373. 


circumstance? We thus have lines of richly manured land serving 
as channels of communication across wide districts. 

Near the Guardia we find the southern limit of two European 
plants, now become extraordinarily common. The fennel in great 
profusion covers the ditch-banks in the neighbourhood of Buenos 
Ay res, Monte Video, and other towns. But the cardoon (Cynara 
cardunculus) has a far wider range: 9 it occurs in these latitudes on 
both sides of the Cordillera, across the continent. I saw it in unfre- 
quented spots in Chile, Entre Rios, and Banda Oriental. In the latter 
country alone, very many (probably several hundred) square miles 
are covered by one mass of these prickly plants, and are impenetrable 
by man or beast. Over the undulating plains, where these great beds 
occur, nothing else can now live. Before their introduction, however, 
the surface must have supported, as in other parts, a rank herbage. 
I doubt whether any case is on record of an invasion on so grand a 
scale of one plant over the aborigines. As I have already said, I 
nowhere saw the cardoon south of the Salado; but it is probable 
that in proportion as that country becomes inhabited, the cardoon 
will extend its limits. The case is different with the giant thistle 
(with variegated leaves) of the Pampas, for I met with it in the valley 
of the Sauce. According to the principles so well laid down by Mr. 
Lyell, few countries have undergone more remarkable changes, 
since the year 1535, when the first colonist of La Plata landed with 
seventy-two horses. The countless herds of horses, cattle, and sheep, 
not only have altered the whole aspect of the vegetation, but they 
have almost banished the guanaco, deer and ostrich. Numberless 
other changes must likewise have taken place; the wild pig in some 
parts probably replaces the peccari; packs of wild dogs may be heard 

9 M. A. d'Orbigny (vol. i. p. 474) says that the cardoon and artichoke are both 
found wild. Dr. Hooker (Botanical Magazine, vol. Iv. p. 2862), has described a 
variety of the Cynara from this part of South America under the name of inermis. 
He states that botanists are now generally agreed that the cardoon and the artichoke 
are varieties of one plant. I may add, that an intelligent farmer assured me that 
he had observed in a deserted garden some artichokes changing into the common 
cardoon. Dr. Hooker believes that Head's vivid description of the thistle of the 
Pampas applies to the cardoon; but this is a mistake. Captain Head referred to the 
plant, which I have mentioned a few lines lower down, under the title of giant 
thistle. Whether it is a true thistle I do not know; but it is quite different from 
the cardoon; and more like a thistle properly so called. 


howling on the wooded banks of the less-frequented streams; and the 
common cat, altered into a large and fierce animal, inhabits rocky 
hills. As M. d'Orbigny has remarked, the increase in numbers of the 
carrion-vulture, since the introduction of the domestic animals, must 
have been infinitely great; and we have given reasons for believing 
that they have extended their southern range. No doubt many plants, 
besides the cardoon and fennel, are naturalized; thus the islands 
near the mouth of the Parana, are thickly clothed with peach and 
orange trees, springing from seeds carried there by the waters of the 

While changing horses at the Guardia several people questioned 
us much about the army, I never saw anything like the enthusiasm 
for Rosas, and for the success of the "most just of all wars, because 
against barbarians." This expression, it must be confessed, is very 
natural, for till lately, neither man, woman nor horse, was safe 
from the attacks of the Indians. We had a long day's ride over the 
same rich green plain, abounding with various flocks, and with here 
and there a solitary estancia, and its one ombu tree. In the evening it 
rained heavily: on arriving at a post-house we were told by the 
owner, that if we had not a regular passport we must pass on, for 
there were so many robbers he would trust no one. When he read, 
however, my passport, which began with "El Naturalista Don 
Carlos," his respect and civility were as unbounded as his suspicions 
had been before. What a naturalist might be, neither he nor his 
countrymen, I suspect, had any idea; but probably my title lost 
nothing of its value from that cause. 

September 20th. We arrived by the middle of the day at Buenos 
Ayres. The outskirts of the city looked quite pretty, with the agave 
hedges, and groves of olive, peach and willow trees, all just throwing 
out their fresh green leaves. I rode to the house of Mr. Lumb, an 
English merchant, to whose kindness and hospitality, during my stay 
in the country, I was greatly indebted. 

The city of Buenos Ayres is large; 10 and I should think one of the 
most regular in the world. Every street is at right angles to the one 
it crosses, and the parallel ones being equidistant, the houses are 

10 It is said to contain 60,000 inhabitants. Monte Video, the second town of 
importance on the banks of the Plata, has 15,000. 


collected into solid squares of equal dimensions, which are called 
quadras. On the other hand, the houses themselves are hollow 
squares; all the rooms opening into a neat little courtyard. They are 
generally only one story high, with flat roofs, which are fitted with 
seats, and are much frequented by the inhabitants in summer. In 
the centre of the town is the Plaza, where the public offices, fortress, 
cathedral, etc., stand. Here also, the old viceroys, before the revolu- 
tion, had their palaces. The general assemblage of buildings possesses 
considerable architectural beauty, although none individually can 
boast of any. 

The great corrai, where the animals are kept for slaughter to supply 
food to this beef-eating population, is one of the spectacles best 
worth seeing. The strength of the horse as compared to that of the 
bullock is quite astonishing: a man on horseback having thrown his 
lazo round the horns of a beast, can drag it anywhere he chooses. 
The animal ploughing up the ground with outstretched legs, in 
vain efforts to resist the force, generally dashes at full speed to one 
side; but the horse immediately turning to receive the shock, stands 
so firmly that the bullock is almost thrown down, and it is surprising 
that their necks are not broken. The struggle is not, however, one of 
fair strength; the horse's girth being matched against the bullock's 
extended neck. In a similar manner a man can hold the wildest 
horse, if caught with the lazo, just behind the ears. When the bullock 
has been dragged to the spot where it is to be slaughtered, the 
matador with great caution cuts the hamstrings. Then is given the 
death bellow; a noise more expressive of fierce agony than any I 
know. I have often distinguished it from a long distance, and have 
always known that the struggle was then drawing to a close. The 
whole sight is horrible and revolting: the ground is almost made of 
bones; and the horses and riders are drenched with gore. 


Excursion to St. Fe Thistle Beds Habits of the Bizcacha Little Owl 
Saline Streams Level Plains Mastodon St. Fe Change in Land- 
scape Geology Tooth of extinct Horse Relation of the Fossil and 
recent Quadrupeds of North and South America Effects of a great 
Drought Parana Habits of the Jaguar Scissor-beak Kingfisher, 
Parrot, and Scissor-tail Revolution Buenos Ayres State of Govern- 

f^EPTEMBER 271/1. In the evening I set out on an excursion 

\ to St. Fe, which is situated nearly three hundred English 
Vj miles from Buenos Ayres, on the banks of the Parana. The 
roads in the neighbourhood of the city after the rainy weather, were 
extraordinarily bad. I should never have thought it possible for a 
bullock waggon to have crawled along : as it was, they scarcely went 
at the rate of a mile an hour, and a man was kept ahead, to survey 
the best line for making the attempt. The bullocks were terribly 
jaded: it is a great mistake to suppose that with improved roads, 
and an accelerated rate of travelling, the sufferings of the animals 
increase in the same proportion. We passed a train of waggons and 
a troop of beasts on their road to Mendoza. The distance is about 
580 geographical miles, and the journey is generally performed in 
fifty days. These waggons are very long, narrow, and thatched with 
reeds; they have only two wheels, the diameter of which in some 
cases is as much as ten feet. Each is drawn by six bullocks, which 
are urged on by a goad at least twenty feet long: this is suspended 
from within the roof; for the wheel bullocks a smaller one is kept; 
and for the intermediate pair, a point projects at right angles from 
the middle of the long one. 

The whole apparatus looked like some implement of war. 

September 28th. We passed the small town of Luxan, where there 
is a wooden bridge over the river a most unusual convenience in 
this country. We passed also Areco. The plains appeared level, but 



were not so in fact; for in various places the horizon was distant. 
The estancias are here wide apart; for there is little good pasture, 
owing to the land being covered by beds either of an acrid clover, 
or of the great thistle. The latter, well known from the animated 
description given by Sir F. Head, were at this time of the year two- 
thirds grown; in some parts they were as high as the horse's back, 
but in others they had not yet sprung up, and the ground was bare 
and dusty as on a turnpike-road. The clumps were of the most 
brilliant green, and they made a pleasing miniature-likeness of 
broken forest land. When the thistles are full grown, the great beds 
are impenetrable, except by a few tracts, as intricate as those in a 
labyrinth. These are only known to the robbers, who at this season 
inhabit them, and sally forth at night to rob and cut throats with 
impunity. Upon asking at a house whether robbers were numerous, 
I was answered, "The thistles are not up yet;" the meaning of 
which reply was not at first very obvious. There is little interest in 
passing over these tracts, for they are inhabited by few animals or 
birds, excepting the bizcacha and its friend the little owl. 

The bizcacha 1 is well known to form a prominent feature in the 
zoology of the Pampas. It was found as far south as the Rio Negro, 
in lat. 41, but not beyond. It cannot, like the agouti, subsist on the 
gravelly and desert plains of Patagonia, but prefers a clayey or sandy 
soil, which produces a different and more abundant vegetation. 
Near Mendoza, at the foot of the Cordillera, it occurs in close neigh- 
bourhood with the allied alpine species. It is a very curious circum- 
stance in its geographical distribution, that it has never been seen, 
fortunately for the inhabitants of Banda Oriental, to the eastward of 
the river Uruguay : yet in this province there are plains which appear 
admirably adapted to its habits. The Uruguay has formed an insu- 
perable obstacle to its migration : although the broader barrier of the 
Parana has been passed, and the bizcacha is common in Entre Rios, 
the province between these two great rivers. Near Buenos Ayres 
these animals are exceedingly common. Their most favourite resort 
appears to be those parts of the plain which during one-half of the 

*The bizcacha (Lagostomus trichodactylus) somewhat resembles a large rabbit, 

but with bigger gnawing teeth and a long tail; it has, however, only three toes 

behind, like the agouti. During the last three or four years the skins of these 
animals have been sent to England for the sake of the fur. 


year are covered with giant thistles, to the exclusion of other plants. 
The Gauchos affirm that it lives on roots; which, from the great 
strength of its gnawing teeth, and the kind of places frequented by 
it, seems probable. In the evening the bizcachas come out in num- 
bers, and quietly sit at the mouths of their burrows on their haunches. 
At such times they are very tame, and a man on horseback passing 
by seems only to present an object for their grave contemplation. 
They run very awkwardly, and when running out of danger, from 
their elevated tails and short front legs, much resemble great rats. 
Their flesh, when cooked, is very white and good, but it is seldom 

The bizcacha has one very singular habit; namely, dragging every 
hard object to the mouth of its burrow: around each group of holes 
many bones of cattle, stones, thistle-stalks, hard lumps of earth, dry 
dung, etc., are collected into an irregular heap, which frequently 
amounts to as much as a wheelbarrow would contain. I was credibly 
informed that a gentleman, when riding on a dark night, dropped 
his watch; he returned in the morning, and by searching the neigh- 
bourhood of every bizcacha hole on the line of road, as he 
expected, he soon found it. This habit of picking up whatever may 
be lying on the ground anywhere near its habitation, must cost much 
trouble. For what purpose it is done, I am quite unable to form even 
the most remote conjecture: it cannot be for defence, because the 
rubbish is chiefly placed above the mouth of the burrow, which enters 
the ground at a very small inclination. No doubt there must exist 
some good reason; but the inhabitants of the country are quite 
ignorant of it. The only fact which I know analogous to it, is the 
habit of that extraordinary Australian bird, the Calodera maculata, 
which makes an elegant vaulted passage of twigs for playing in, and 
which collects near the spot, land and sea-shells, bones, and the 
feathers of birds, especially brightly coloured ones. Mr. Gould, who 
has described these facts, informs me, that the natives, when they 
lose any hard object, search the playing passages, and he has known 
a tobacco-pipe thus recovered. 

The little owl (Athene cunicularia), which has been so often 
mentioned, on the plains of Buenos Ayres exclusively inhabits the 
holes of the bizcacha; but in Banda Oriental it is its own workman. 


During the open day, but more especially in the evening, these birds 
may be seen in every direction standing frequently by pairs on the 
hillock near their burrows. If disturbed they either enter the hole, 
or, uttering a shrill harsh cry, move with a remarkably undulatory 
flight to a short distance, and then turning round, steadily gaze at 
their pursuer. Occasionally in the evening they may be heard hoot- 
ing. I found in the stomachs of two which I opened the remains of 
mice, and I one day saw a small snake killed and carried away. 
It is said that snakes are their common prey during the daytime. 
I may here mention, as showing on what various kinds of food owls 
subsist, that a species killed among the islets of the Chonos Archi- 
pelago, had its stomach full of good-sized crabs. In India 2 there is 
a fishing genus of owls, which likewise catches crabs. 

In the evening we crossed the Rio Arrecife on a simple raft made 
of barrels lashed together, and slept at the post-house on the other 
side. I this day paid horse-hire for thirty-one leagues; and although 
the sun was glaring hot I was but little fatigued. When Captain 
Head talks of riding fifty leagues a day, I do not imagine the 
distance is equal to 150 English miles. At all events, the thirty-one 
leagues was only 76 miles in a straight line, and in an open country 
I should think four additional miles for turnings would be a suffi- 
cient allowance. 

2<)th and $oth. We continued to ride over plains of the same 
character. At San Nicolas I first saw the noble river of the Parana. 
At the foot of the cliff on which the town stands, some large vessels 
were at anchor. Before arriving at Rozario, we crossed the Saladillo, 
a stream of fine clear running water, but too saline to drink. Rozario 
is a large town built on a dead level plain, which forms a cliff about 
sixty feet high over the Parana. The river here is very broad, with 
many islands, which are low and wooded, as is also the opposite 
shore. The view would resemble that of a great lake, if it were not 
for the linear-shaped islets, which alone give the idea of running 
water. The cliffs are the most picturesque part; sometimes they are 
absolutely perpendicular, and of a red colour; at other times in large 
broken masses, covered with cacti and mimosa-trees. The real 
grandeur, however, of an immense river like this, is derived from 

2 Journal of Asiatic Soc., vol. v. p. 363. 


reflecting how important a means of communication and commerce 
it forms between one nation and another; to what a distance it 
travels; and from how vast a territory it drains the great body of 
fresh water which flows past your feet. 

For many leagues north and south of San Nicolas and Rozario, 
the country is really level. Scarcely anything which travellers have 
written about its extreme flatness, can be considered as exaggeration. 
Yet I could never find a spot where, by slowly turning round, objects 
were not seen at greater distances in some directions than in others; 
and this manifestly proves inequality in the plain. At sea, a person's 
eye being six feet above the surface of the water, his horizon is two 
miles and four-fifths distant. In like manner, the more level the 
plain, the more nearly does the horizon approach within these nar- 
row limits; and this, in my opinion, entirely destroys that grandeur 
which one would have imagined that a vast level plain would have 

October ist. We started by moonlight and arrived at the Rio 
Tercero by sunrise. The river is also called the Saladillo, and it 
deserves the name, for the water is brackish. I stayed here the greater 
part of the day, searching for fossil bones. Besides a perfect tooth 
of the Toxodon, and many scattered bones, I found two immense 
skeletons near each other, projecting in bold relief from the perpen- 
dicular cliff of the Parana. They were, however, so completely 
decayed, that I could only bring away small fragments of one of the 
great molar teeth; but these are sufficient to show that the remains 
belonged to a Mastodon, probably to the same species with that, 
which formerly must have inhabited the Cordillera in Upper Peru 
in such great numbers. The men who took me in the canoe, said 
they had long known of these skeletons, and had often wondered 
how they had got there: the necessity of a theory being felt, they 
came to the conclusion that, like the bizcacha, the mastodon was 
formerly a burrowing animal! In the evening we rode another 
stage, and crossed the Monge, another brackish stream, bearing the 
dregs of the washings of the Pampas. 

October 2nd. We passed through Corunda, which, from the 
luxuriance of its gardens, was one of the prettiest villages I saw. 
From this point to St. Fe the road is not very safe. The western side 


of the Parana northward, ceases to be inhabited; and hence the 
Indians sometimes come down thus far, and waylay travellers. The 
nature of the country also favours this, for instead of a grassy plain, 
there is an open woodland, composed of low prickly mimosas. We 
passod some houses that had been ransacked and since deserted; we 
saw also a spectacle, which my guides viewed with high satisfaction; 
it was the skeleton of an Indian with the dried skin hanging on the 
bones, suspended to the branch of a tree. 

In the morning we arrived at St. Fe. I was surprised to observe 
how great a change of climate a difference of only three degrees of 
latitude between this place and Buenos Ayres had caused. This was 
evident from the dress and complexion of the men from the in- 
creased size of the ombu-trees the number of new cacti and other 
plants and especially from the birds. In the course of an hour I 
remarked half-a-dozen birds, which I had never seen at Buenos 
Ayres. Considering that there is no natural boundary between the 
two places, and that the character of the country is nearly similar, 
the difference was much greater than I should have expected. 

October $rd and qth. I was confined for these two days to my bed 
by a headache. A good-natured old woman, who attended me, 
wished me to try many odd remedies. A common practice is, to 
bind an orange-leaf or a bit of black plaster to each temple: and a 
still more general plan is, to split a bean into halves, moisten them, 
and place one on each temple, where they will easily adhere. It is 
not thought proper ever to remove the beans or plaster, but to allow 
them to drop off; and sometimes, if a man, with patches on his head, 
is asked, what is the matter? he will answer, "I had a headache the 
day before yesterday." Many of the remedies used by the people 
of the country are ludicrously strange, but too disgusting to be 
mentioned. One of the least nasty is to kill and cut open two puppies 
and bind them on each side of a broken limb. Little hairless dogs 
are in great request to sleep at the feet of invalids. 

St. Fe is a quiet little town, and is kept clean and in good order. 
The governor, Lopez, was a common soldier at the time of the 
revolution; but has now been seventeen years in power. This 
stability of government is owing to his tyrannical habits; for tyranny 
seems as yet better adapted to these countries than republicanism. 


The governor's favourite occupation is hunting Indians: a short 
time since he slaughtered forty-eight, and sold the children at the 
rate of three or four pounds apiece. 

October $th We crossed the Parana to St. Fe Bajada, a town on 
the opposite shore. The passage took some hours, as the river here 
consisted of a labyrinth of small streams, separated by low wooded 
islands. I had a letter of introduction to an old Catalonian Spaniard, 
who treated me with the most uncommon hospitality. The Bajada 
is the capital of Entre Rios. In 1825 the town contained 6000 inhabi- 
tants, and the province 30,000; yet, few as the inhabitants are, no 
province has suffered more from bloody and desperate revolutions. 
They boast here of representatives, ministers, a standing army, and 
governors: so it is no wonder that they have their revolutions. At 
some future day this must be one of the richest countries of La 
Plata. The soil is varied and productive; and its almost insular form 
gives it two grand lines of communication by the rivers Parana 
and Uruguay. 

I was delayed here five days, and employed myself in examining 
the geology of the surrounding country, which was very interesting. 
We here see at the bottom of the cliffs, beds containing sharks' 
teeth and sea-shells of extinct species, passing above into an indurated 
marl, and from that into the red clayey earth of the Pampas, with its 
calcareous concretions and the bones of terrestrial quadrupeds. This 
vertical section clearly tells us of a large bay of pure salt-water, 
gradually encroached on, and at last converted into the bed of a 
muddy estuary, into which floating carcasses were swept. At Punta 
Gorda, in Banda Oriental, I found an alternation of the Pampzan 
estuary deposit, with a limestone containing some of the same 
extinct sea-shells; and this shows either a change in the former 
currents, or more probably an oscillation of level in the bottom of 
the ancient estuary. Until lately, my reasons for considering the 
Pampaean formation to be an estuary deposit were, its general appear- 
ance, its position at the mouth of the existing great river the Plata, 
and the presence of so many bones of terrestrial quadrupeds: but 
now Professor Ehrenberg has had the kindness to examine for me a 
little of the red earth, taken from low down in the deposit, close to 


the skeletons of the mastodon, and he finds in it many infusoria, 
partly salt-water and partly fresh-water forms, with the latter rather 
preponderating; and therefore, as he remarks, the water must have 
been brackish. M. A. d'Orbigny found on the banks of the Parana, 
at the height of a hundred feet, great beds of an estuary shell, now 
living a hundred miles lower down nearer the sea; and I found 
similar shells at a less height on the banks of the Uruguay; this 
shows that just before the Pampas was slowly elevated into dry 
land, the water covering it was brackish. Below Buenos Ayres there 
are upraised beds of sea-shells of existing species, which also proves 
that the period of elevation of the Pampas was within the recent 

In the Pampaean deposit at the Bajada I found the osseous armour 
of a gigantic armadillo-like animal, the inside of which, when the 
earth was removed, was like a great cauldron; I found also teeth of 
the Toxodon and Mastodon, and one tooth of a Horse, in the same 
stained and decayed state. This latter tooth greatly interested me, 3 
and I took scrupulous care in ascertaining that it had been embedded 
contemporaneously with the other remains; for I was not then aware 
that amongst the fossils from Bahia Blanca there was a horse's tooth 
hidden in the matrix: nor was it then known with certainty that 
the remains of horses are common in North America. Mr. Lyell has 
lately brought from the United States a tooth of a horse; and it is an 
interesting fact, that Professor Owen could find in no species, either 
fossil or recent, a slight but peculiar curvature characterizing it, 
until he thought of comparing it with my specimen found here: he 
has named this American horse Equus curvidens. Certainly it is a 
marvellous fact in the history of the Mammalia, that in South 
America a native horse should have lived and disappeared, to be 
succeeded in after-ages by the countless herds descended from the 
few introduced with the Spanish colonists! 

The existence in South America of a fossil horse, of the mastodon, 
possibly of an elephant, 4 and of a hollow-horned ruminant, dis- 
covered by MM. Lund and Clausen in the caves of Brazil, are highly 
interesting facts with respect to the geographical distribution of 

3 1 need hardly state here that there is good evidence against any horse living in 
America at the time of Columbus. 

4 Cuvier. Ossemens Fossiles, torn. i. p. 158. 


animals. At the present time, if we divide America, not by the 
Isthmus of Panama, but by the southern part of Mexico 5 in lat. 20, 
where the great table-land presents an obstacle to the migration of 
species, by affecting the climate, and by forming, with the exception 
of some valleys and of a fringe of low land on the coast, a broad 
barrier; we shall then have the two zoological provinces of North 
and South America strongly contrasted with each other. Some few 
species alone have passed the barrier, and may be considered as 
wanderers from the south, such as the puma, opossum, kinkajou, 
and peccari. South America is characterized by possessing many 
peculiar gnawers, a family of monkeys, the llama, peccari, tapir, 
opossums, and, especially, several genera of Edentata, the order 
which includes the sloths, ant-eaters, and armadilloes. North Amer- 
ica, on the other hand, is characterized (putting on one side a few 
wandering species) by numerous peculiar gnawers, and by four 
genera (the ox, sheep, goat, and antelope) of hollow-horned rumi- 
nants, of which great division South America is not known to 
possess a single species. Formerly, but within the period when most 
of the now existing shells were living, North America possessed, 
besides hollow-horned ruminants, the elephant, mastodon, horse, 
and three genera of Edentata, namely, the Megatherium, Megalonyx, 
and Mylodon. Within nearly this same period (as proved by the 
shells at Bahia Blanca) South America possessed, as we have just 
seen, a mastodon, horse, hollow-horned ruminant, and the same 
three genera (as well as several others) of the Edentata. Hence it 
is evident that North and South America, in having within a late 
geological period these several genera in common, were much more 
closely related in the character of their terrestrial inhabitants than 
they now are. The more I reflect on this case, the more interesting 
it appears: I know of no other instance where we can almost mark 
the period and manner of the splitting up of one great region into 

5 This is the geographical division followed by Lichtenstein, Swainson, Erichson, 
and Richardson. The section from Vera Cruz to Acapulco, given by Humboldt in 
the Polit. Essay on Kingdom of N. Spain will show how immense a barrier the 
Mexican table-land forms. Dr. Richardson, in his admirable Report on the Zoology 
of N. America read before the Brit. Assoc. 1836 (p. 157), talking of the identification 
of a Mexican animal with the Synetheres prehensilis, says, "We do not know with 
what propriety, but if correct, it is, if not a solitary instance, at least very nearly 
so, of a rodent animal being common to North and South America." 


two well-characterized zoological provinces. The geologist, who is 
fully impressed with the vast oscillations of level which have affected 
the earth's crust within late periods, will not fear to speculate on the 
recent elevation of the Mexican platform, or, more probably, on the 
recent submergence of land in the West Indian Archipelago, as the 
cause of the present zoological separation of North and South 
America. The South American character of the West Indian mam- 
mals 6 seems to indicate that this archipelago was formerly united 
to the southern continent, and that it has subsequently been an area 
of subsidence. 

When America, and especially North America, possessed its ele- 
phants, mastodons, horse, and hollow-horned ruminants, it was 
much more closely related in its zoological characters to the temper- 
ate parts of Europe and Asia than it now is. As the remains of these 
genera are found on both sides of Behring's Straits 7 and on the 
plains of Siberia, we are led to look to the north-western side of 
North America as the former point of communication between the 
Old and so-called New World. And as so many species, both living 
and extinct, of these same genera inhabit and have inhabited the 
Old World, it seems most probable that the North American ele- 
phants, mastodons, horse, and hollow-horned ruminants migrated, 
on land since submerged near Behring's Straits, from Siberia into 
North America, and thence, on land since submerged in the West 
Indies, into South America, where for a time they mingled with the 
forms characteristic of that southern continent, and have since 
become extinct. 

While travelling through the country, I received several vivid 
descriptions of the effects of a late great drought; and the account 
of this may throw some light on the cases where vast numbers of 
animals of all kinds have been embedded together. The period 
included between the years 1827 and 1830 is called the "gran seco," 

6 See Dr. Richardson's Report, p. 157; also L'Institut, 1837, p. 253. Cuvier says 
the kinkajou is found in the larger Antilles, but this is doubtful. M. Gervais states 
that the Didelphis crancrivora is found there. It is certain that the West Indies possess 
some mammifers peculiar to themselves. A tooth of a mastodon has been brought 
from Bahama; Edin. New Phil. Journ., 1826, p. 395. 

7 See the admirable Appendix by Dr. Buckland to Beechey's Voyage; also the 
writings of Chamisso in Kotzebue's Voyage. 


or the great drought. During this time so little rain fell, that the 
vegetation, even to the thistles, failed; the brooks were dried up, and 
the whole country assumed the appearance of a dusty high road. 
This was especially the case in the northern part of the province of 
Buenos Ayres and the southern part of St. Fe. Very great numbers 
of birds, wild animals, cattle, and horses perished from the want of 
food and water. A man told me that the deer 8 used to come into his 
courtyard to the well, which he had been obliged to dig to supply his 
own family with water; and that the partridges had hardly strength 
to fly away when pursued. The lowest estimation of the loss of 
cattle in the province of Buenos Ayres alone, was taken at one million 
head. A proprietor at San Pedro had previously to these years 
20,000 cattle; at the end not one remained. San Pedro is situated in 
the middle of the finest country; and even now abounds again with 
animals; yet, during the latter part of the "gran seco," live cattle were 
brought in vessels for the consumption of the inhabitants. The 
animals roamed from their estancias, and, wandering far southward, 
were mingled together in such multitudes, that a government com- 
mission was sent from Buenos Ayres to settle the disputes of the 
owners. Sir Woodbine Parish informed me of another and very 
curious source of dispute; the ground being so long dry, such quan- 
tities of dust were blown about, that in this open country the land- 
marks became obliterated, and people could not tell the limits of 
their estates. 

I was informed by an eye-witness that the cattle in herds of thou- 
sands rushed into the Parana, and being exhausted by hunger they 
were unable to crawl up the muddy banks, and thus were drowned. 
The arm of the river which runs by San Pedro was so full of putrid 
carcasses, that the master of a vessel told me that the smell rendered 
it quite impassable. Without doubt several hundred thousand ani- 

8 In Captain Owen's Surveying Voyage (vol. ii. p. 274) there is a curious account 
of the effects of a drought on the elephants, at Benguela (west coast of Africa). 
"A number of these animals had some time since entered the town, in a body, to 
possess themselves of the wells, not being able to procure any water in the country. 
The inhabitants mustered, when a desperate conflict ensued, which terminated in 
the ultimate discomfiture of the invaders, but not until they had killed one man, and 
wounded several others." The town is said to have a population of nearly three 
thousand! Dr. Malcolmson informs me that, during a great drought in India, the 
wild animals entered the tents of some troops at Ellore, and that a hare drank out of 
a vessel held by the adjutant of the regiment. 


mals thus perished in the river: their bodies when putrid were seen 
floating down the stream; and many in all probability were deposited 
in the estuary of the Plata. All the small rivers became highly saline, 
and this caused the death of vast numbers in particular spots; for 
when an animal drinks of such water it does not recover. Azara 
describes 9 the fury of the wild horses on a similar occasion, rushing 
into the marshes, those which arrived first being overwhelmed and 
crushed by those which followed. He adds that more than once he 
has seen the carcasses of upwards of a thousand wild horses thus 
destroyed. I noticed that the smaller streams in the Pampas were 
paved with a breccia of bones, but this probably is the effect of a 
gradual increase, rather than of the destruction at any one period. 
Subsequently to the drought of 1827 to 1832, a very rainy season 
followed, which caused great floods. Hence it is almost certain that 
some thousands of the skeletons were buried by the deposits of the 
very next year. What would be the opinion of a geologist, viewing 
such an enormous collection of bones, of all kinds of animals and of 
all ages, thus embedded in one thick earthy mass? Would he not 
attribute it to a flood having swept over the surface of the land, 
rather than to the common order of things? 10 

October i2th. I had intended to push my excursion further, but 
not being quite well, I was compelled to return by a balandra, or 
one-masted vessel of about a hundred tons' burden, which was bound 
to Buenos Ayres. As the weather was not fair, we moored early in 
the day to a branch of a tree on one of the islands. The Parana is 
full of islands, which undergo a constant round of decay and 
renovation. In the memory of the master several large ones had 
disappeared, and others again had been formed and protected by 
vegetation. They are composed of muddy sand, without even the 
smallest pebble, and were then about four feet above the level of 
the river; but during the periodical floods they are inundated. They 
all present one character; numerous willows and a few other trees 
are bound together by a great variety of creeping plants, thus form- 
ing a thick jungle. These thickets afford a retreat for capybaras and 

9 Travels, vol. i. p. 374. 

10 These droughts to a certain degree seem to be almost periodical; I was told the 
dates of several others, and the intervals were about fifteen years. 


jaguars. The fear of the latter animal quite destroyed all pleasure 
in scrambling through the woods. This evening I had not proceeded 
a hundred yards, before finding indubitable signs of the recent pres- 
ence of the tiger, I was obliged to come back. On every island there 
were tracks; and as on the former excursion "el rastro de los Indies" 
had been the subject of conversation, so in this was "el rastro del tigre." 

The wooded banks of the great rivers appear to be the favourite 
haunts of the jaguar; but south of the Plata, I was told that they 
frequented the reeds bordering lakes: wherever they are, they seem 
to require water. Their common prey is the capybara, so that it is 
generally said, where capybaras are numerous there is little danger 
from the jaguar. Falconer states that near the southern side of the 
mouth of the Plata there are many jaguars, and that they chiefly live 
on fish; this account I have heard repeated. On the Parana they 
have killed many wood-cutters, and have even entered vessels at 
night. There is a man now living in the Bajada, who, coming up 
from below when it was dark, was seized on the deck; he escaped, 
however, with the loss of the use of one arm. When the floods drive 
these animals from the islands, they are most dangerous. I was told 
that a few years since a very large one found its way into a church 
at St. Fe : two padres entering one after the other were killed, and a 
third, who came to see what was the matter, escaped with difficulty. 
The beast was destroyed by being shot from a corner of the building 
which was unroofed. They commit also at these times great ravages 
among cattle and horses. It is said that they kill their prey by break- 
ing their necks. If driven from the carcass, they seldom return to it. 
The Gauchos say that the jaguar, when wandering about at night, 
is much tormented by the foxes yelping as they follow him. This is 
a curious coincidence with the fact which is generally affirmed of 
the jackals accompanying, in a similarly officious manner, the East 
Indian tiger. The jaguar is a noisy animal, roaring much by night, 
and especially before bad weather. 

One day, when hunting on the banks of the Uruguay, I was shown 
certain trees, to which these animals constantly recur for the pur- 
pose, as it is said, of sharpening their claws. I saw three well-known 
trees; in front, the bark was worn smooth, as if by the breast of the 
animal, and on each side there were deep scratches, or rather grooves, 


extending in an oblique line, nearly a yard in length. The scars were 
of different ages. A common method of ascertaining whether a 
jaguar is in the neighbourhood is to examine these trees. I imagine 
this habit of the jaguar is exactly similar to one which may any day 
be seen in the common cat, as with outstretched legs and exserted 
claws it scrapes the leg of a chair; and I have heard of young fruit- 
trees in an orchard in England having been thus much injured. 
Some such habit must also be common to the puma, for on the bare 
hard soil of Patagonia I have frequently seen scores so deep that no 
other animal could have made them. The object of this practice is, 
I believe, to tear off the ragged points of their claws, and not, as the 
Gauchos think, to sharpen them. The jaguar is killed, without much 
difficulty, by the aid of dogs baying and driving him up a tree, 
where he is despatched with bullets. 

Owing to bad weather we remained two days at our moorings. 
Our only amusement was catching fish for our dinner: there were 
several kinds, and all good eating. A fish called the "armado" (a 
Silurus) is remarkable from a harsh grating noise which it makes 
when caught by hook and line, and which can be distinctly heard 
when the fish is beneath the water. This same fish has the power of 
firmly catching hold of any object, such as the blade of an oar or 
the fishing-line, with the strong spine both of its pectoral and dorsal 
fin. In the evening the weather was quite tropical, the thermometer 
standing at 79. Numbers of fireflies were hovering about, and the 
musquitoes were very troublesome. I exposed my hand for five min- 
utes, and it was soon black with them; I do not suppose there could 
have been less than fifty, all busy sucking. 

October i$th. We got under way and passed Punta Gorda, where 
there is a colony of tame Indians from the province of Missiones. 
We sailed rapidly down the current, but before sunset, from a silly 
fear of bad weather, we brought-to in a narrow arm of the river. I 
took the boat and rowed some distance up this creek. It was very 
narrow, winding, and deep; on each side a wall thirty or forty feet 
high, formed by trees intwined with creepers, gave to the canal a 
singularly gloomy appearance. I here saw a very extraordinary bird, 
called the Scissor-beak (Rhynchops nigra). It has short legs, web 
feet, extremely long-pointed wings, and is of about the size of a tern.. 


The beak is flattened laterally, that is, in a plane at right angles to 
that of a spoonbill or duck. It is as flat and elastic as an ivory paper- 
cutter, and the lower mandible, differing from every other bird, is 
an inch and a half longer than the upper. In a lake near Maldonado, 
from which the water had been nearly drained, and which, in con- 
sequence, swarmed with small fry, I saw several of these birds, gen- 

erally in small flocks, flying rapidly backwards and forwards close 
to the surface of the lake. They kept their bills wide open, and the 
lower mandible half buried in the water. Thus skimming the sur- 
face, they ploughed it in their course: the water was quite smooth, 
and it formed a most curious spectacle to behold a flock, each bird 
leaving its narrow wake on the mirror-like surface. In their flight 
they frequently twist about with extreme quickness, and dexterously 
manage with their projecting lower mandible to plough up small 
fish, which are secured by the upper and shorter half of their scissor- 
like bills. This fact I repeatedly saw, as, like swallows, they continued 
to fly backwards and forwards close before me. Occasionally when 
leaving the surface of the water their flight was wild, irregular, and 
rapid; they then uttered loud harsh cries. When these birds are 
fishing, the advantage of the long primary feathers of their wings, 
in keeping them dry, is very evident. When thus employed, their 
forms resemble the symbol by which many artists represent marine 
birds. Their tails are much used in steering their irregular course. 
These birds are common far inland along the course of the Rio 
Parana; it is said that they remain here during the whole year, and 
breed in the marshes. During the day they rest in flocks on the grassy 
plains at some distance from the water. Being at anchor, as I have 
said, in one of the deep creeks between the islands of the Parana, as 
the evening drew to a close, one of these scissor-beaks suddenly 


appeared. The water was quite still, and many little fish were ris- 
ing. The bird continued for a long time to skim the surface, flying 
in its wild and irregular manner up and down the narrow canal, 
now dark with the growing night and the shadows of the over- 
hanging trees. At Monte Video, I observed that some large flocks 
during the day remained on the mud-banks at the head of the har- 
bour, in the same manner as on the grassy plains near the Parana; 
and every evening they took flight seaward. From these facts I 
suspect that the Rhynchops generally fishes by night, at which time 
many of the lower animals come most abundantly to the surface. 
M. Lesson states that he has seen these birds opening the shells of 
the mactrae buried in the sand-banks on the coast of Chile: from 
their weak bills, with the lower mandible so much projecting, their 
short legs and long wings, it is very improbable that this can be a 
general habit. 

In our course down the Parana, I observed only three other birds, 
whose habits are worth mentioning. One is a small kingfisher 
(Ceryle Americana) ; it has a longer tail than the European species, 
and hence does not sit in so stiff and upright a position. Its flight 
also, instead of being direct and rapid, like the course of an arrow, 
is weak and undulatory, as among the soft-billed birds. It utters a 
low note, like the clicking together of two small stones. A small 
green parrot (Conurus murinus), with a grey breast, appears to 
prefer the tall trees on the islands to any other situation for its 
building-place. A number of nests are placed so close together as to 
form one great mass of sticks. These parrots always live in flocks, 
and commit great ravages on the corn-fields. I was told, that near 
Colonia 2500 were killed in the course of one year. A bird with a 
forked tail, terminated by two long feathers (Tyrannus savana), and 
named by the Spaniards scissor-tail, is very common near Buenos 
Ayres: it commonly sits on a branch of the ombu tree, near a house, 
and thence takes a short flight in pursuit of insects, and returns to 
the same spot. When on the wing it presents in its manner of flight 
and general appearance a caricature-likeness of the common swal- 
low. It has the power of turning very shortly in the air, and in so 
doing opens and shuts its tail, sometimes in a horizontal or lateral 
and sometimes in a vertical direction, just like a pair of scissors. 


October i6th. Some leagues below Rozario, the western shore 
of the Parana is bounded by perpendicular cliffs, which extend in a 
long line to below San Nicolas; hence it more resembles a sea-coast 
than that of a fresh-water river. It is a great drawback to the scenery 
of the Parana, that, from the soft nature of its banks, the water is 
very muddy. The Uruguay, flowing through a granitic country, is 
much clearer; and where the two channels unite at the head of the 
Plata, the waters may for a long distance be distinguished by their 
black and red colours. In the evening, the wind being not quite 
fair, as usual we immediately moored, and the next day, as it blew 
rather freshly, though with a favouring current, the master was 
much too indolent to think of starting. At Bajada, he was described 
to me as "hombre muy aflicto" a man always miserable to get on; 
but certainly he bore all delays with admirable resignation. He was 
an old Spaniard, and had been many years in this country. He pro- 
fessed a great liking to the English, but stoutly maintained that the 
battle of Trafalgar was merely won by the Spanish captains having 
been all bought over; and that the only really gallant action on either 
side was performed by the Spanish admiral. It struck me as rather 
characteristic, that this man should prefer his countrymen being 
thought the worst of traitors, rather than unskilful or cowardly. 

i8th and igth. We continued slowly to sail down the noble 
stream: the current helped us but little. We met, during our descent, 
very few vessels. One of the best gifts of nature, in so grand a chan- 
nel of communication, seems here wilfully thrown away a river in 
which ships might navigate from a temperate country, as surpris- 
ingly abundant in certain productions as destitute of others, to 
another possessing a tropical climate, and a soil which, according to 
the best of judges, M. Bonpland, is perhaps unequalled in fertility 
in any part of the world. How different would have been the aspect 
of this river if English colonists had by good fortune first sailed up 
the Plata! What noble towns would now have occupied its shores! 
Till the death of Francia, the Dictator of Paraguay, these two coun- 
tries must remain distinct, as if placed on opposite sides of the globe. 
And when the old bloody-minded tyrant is gone to his long account, 
Paraguay will be torn by revolutions, violent in proportion to the 
previous unnatural calm. That country will have to learn, like every 


other South American state, that a republic cannot succeed till it 
contains a certain body of men imbued with the principles of justice 
and honour. 

October 20th. Being arrived at the mouth of the Parana, and as 
I was very anxious to reach Buenos Ayres, I went on shore at Las 
Conchas, with the intention of riding there. Upon landing, I found 
to my great surprise that I was to a certain degree a prisoner. A 
violent revolution having broken out, all the ports were laid under 
an embargo. I could not return to my vessel, and as for going by 
land to the city, it was out of the question. After a long conversa- 
tion with the commandant, I obtained permission to go the next 
day to General Rolor, who commanded a division of the rebels on 
this side the capital. In the morning I rode to the encampment. 
The general, officers, and soldiers, all appeared, and I believe really 
were, great villains. The general, the very evening before he left 
the city, voluntarily went to the Governor, and with his hand to his 
heart, pledged his word of honour that he at least would remain 
faithful to the last. The general told me that the city was in a state 
of close blockade, and that all he could do was to give me a passport 
to the commander-in-chief of the rebels at Quilmes. We had there- 
fore to take a great sweep round the city, and it was with much 
difficulty that we procured horses. My reception at the encampment 
was quite civil, but I was told it was impossible that I could be 
allowed to enter the city. I was very anxious about this, as I an- 
ticipated the Beagle's departure from the Rio Plata earlier than it 
took place. Having mentioned, however, General Rosas's obliging 
kindness to me when at the Colorado, magic itself could not have 
altered circumstances quicker than did this conversation. I was 
instantly told that though they could not give me a passport, if I 
chose to leave my guide and horses, I might pass their sentinels. I 
was too glad to accept of this, and an officer was sent with me to 
give directions that I should not be stopped at the bridge. The road 
for the space of a league was quite deserted. I met one party of 
soldiers, who were satisfied by gravely looking at an old passport: 
and at length I was not a little pleased to find myself within the city. 

This revolution was supported by scarcely any pretext of griev- 
ances: but in a state which, in the course of nine months (from 


February to October, 1820), underwent fifteen changes in its govern- 
ment each governor, according to the constitution, being elected 
for three years it would be very unreasonable to ask for pretexts. 
In this case, a party of men who, being attached to Rosas, were 
disgusted with the governor Balcarce to the number of seventy 
left the city, and with the cry of "Rosas!" the whole country took 
arms. The city was then blockaded, no provisions, cattle or horses, 
were allowed to enter; besides this, there was only a little skirmish- 
ing, and a few men daily killed. The outside party well knew that 
by stopping the supply of meat they would certainly be victorious. 
General Rosas could not have known of this rising; but it appears 
to be quite consonant with the plans of his party. A year ago he 
was elected governor, but he refused it, unless the Sala would also 
confer on him extraordinary powers. This was refused, and since 
then his party have shown that no other governor can keep his place. 
The warfare on both sides was avowedly protracted till it was pos- 
sible to hear from Rosas. A note arrived a few days after I left 
Buenos Ayres, which stated that the General disapproved of peace 
having been broken, but that he thought the outside party had 
justice on their side. On the bare reception of this, the Governor, 
ministers, and part of the military, to the number of some hundreds, 
fled from the city. The rebels entered, elected a new governor, and 
were paid for their services to the number of 5500 men. From these 
proceedings, it was clear that Rosas ultimately would become the 
dictator: to the term king, the people in this, as in other republics, 
have a particular dislike. Since leaving South America, we have 
heard that Rosas has been elected, with powers and for a time 
altogether opposed to the constitutional principles of the republic. 


Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento Value of an Estancia Cattle, 
how counted Singular Breed of Oxen Perforated Pebbles Shepherd 
Dogs Horses broken-in, Gauchos riding Character of Inhabitants 
Rio Plata Flocks of Butterflies Aeronaut Spiders Phosphorescence 
of the Sea Port Desire Guanaco Port St. Julian Geology of Pata- 
gonia Fossil gigantic Animal Types of Organization constant- 
Change in the Zoology of America Causes of Extinction. 

HAVING been delayed for nearly a fortnight in the city, I 
was glad to escape on board a packet bound for Monte 
Video. A town in a state of blockade must always be a 
disagreeable place of residence; in this case moreover there were 
constant apprehensions from robbers within. The sentinels were the 
worst of all; for, from their office and from having arms in their 
hands, they robbed with a degree of authority which other men 
could not imitate. 

Our passage was a very long and tedious one. The Plata looks 
like a noble estuary on the map; but is in truth a poor affair. A wide 
expanse of muddy water has neither grandeur nor beauty. At one 
time of the day, the two shores, both of which are extremely low, 
could just be distinguished from the deck. On arriving at Monte 
Video I found that the Beagle would not sail for some time, so I 
prepared for a short excursion in this part of Banda Oriental. Every- 
thing which I have said about the country near Maldonado is ap- 
plicable to Monte Video; but the land, with the one exception of 
the Green Mount 450 feet high, from which it takes its name, is far 
more level. Very little of the undulating grassy plain is enclosed; 
but near the town there are a few hedge-banks, covered with agaves, 
cacti, and fennel. 

November iqth. We left Monte Video in the afternoon. I in- 
tended to proceed to Colonia del Sacramiento, situated on the 
northern bank of the Plata and opposite to Buenos Ayres, and thence, 



following up the Uruguay, to the village of Mercedes on the Rio 
Negro (one of the many rivers of this name in South America), and 
from this point to return direct to Monte Video. We slept at the 
house of my guide at Canelones. In the morning we rose early, in 
the hopes of being able to ride a good distance; but it was a vain 
attempt, for all the rivers were flooded. We passed in boats the 
streams of Canelones, St. Lucia, and San Jose, and thus lost much 
time. On a former excursion I crossed the Lucia near its mouth, and 
I was surprised to observe how easily our horses, although not used 
to swim, passed over a width of at least six hundred yards. On 
mentioning this at Monte Video, I was told that a vessel containing 
some mountebanks and their horses, being wrecked in the Plata, 
one horse swam seven miles to the shore. In the course of the day 
I was amused by the dexterity with which a Gaucho forced a 
restive horse to swim a river. He stripped off his clothes, and jump- 
ing on its back, rode into the water till it was out of its depth; then 
slipping off over the crupper, he caught hold of the tail, and as 
often as the horse turned round, the man frightened it back by 
splashing water in its face. As soon as the horse touched the bottom 
on the other side, the man pulled himself on, and was firmly seated, 
bridle in hand, before the horse gained the bank. A naked man on 
a naked horse is a fine spectacle; I had no idea how well the two 
animals suited each other. The tail of a horse is a very useful 
appendage; I have passed a river in a boat with four people in it, 
which was ferried across in the same way as the Gaucho. If a man 
and horse have to cross a broad river, the best plan is for the man to 
catch hold of the Dommel or mane, and help himself with the other 

We slept and stayed the following day at the post of Cufre. In 
the evening the postman or letter-carrier arrived. He was a day 
after his time, owing to the Rio Rozario being flooded. It would not, 
however, be of much consequence; for, although he had passed 
through some of the principal towns in Banda Oriental, his lug- 
gage consisted of two letters! The view from the house was pleas- 
ing; an undulating green surface, with distant glimpses of the 
Plata. I find that I look at this province with very different eyes 
from what I did upon my first arrival. I recollect I then thought it 


singularly level; but now, after galloping over the Pampas, my only 
surprise is, what could have induced me ever to call it level. The 
country is a series of undulations, in themselves perhaps not ab- 
solutely great, but, as compared to the plains of St. Fe, real moun- 
tains. From these inequalities there is an abundance of small 
rivulets, and the turf is green and luxuriant. 

November ijth. We crossed the Rozario, which was deep and 
rapid, and passing the village of Colla, arrived at midday at Colonia 
del Sacramiento. The distance is twenty leagues, through a coun- 
try covered with fine grass, but poorly stocked with cattle or in- 
habitants. I was invited to sleep at Colonia, and to accompany on 
the following day a gentleman to his estancia, where there were 
some limestone rocks. The town is built on a stony promontory 
something in the same manner as at Monte Video. It is strongly 
fortified, but both fortifications and town suffered much in the 
Brazilian war. It is very ancient; and the irregularity of the streets, 
and the surrounding groves of old orange and peach trees, gave it a 
pretty appearance. The church is a curious ruin; it was used as a 
powder-magazine, and was struck by lightning in one of the ten 
thousand thunder-storms of the Rio Plata. Two-thirds of the build- 
ing were blown away to the very foundation; and the rest stands a 
shattered and curious monument of the united powers of lightning 
and gunpowder. In the evening I wandered about the half-demol- 
ished walls of the town. It was the chief seat of the Brazilian war; 
a war most injurious to this country, not so much in its immediate 
effects, as in being the origin of a multitude of generals and all 
other grades of officers. More generals are numbered (but not paid) 
in the United Provinces of La Plata than in the United Kingdom of 
Great Britain. These gentlemen have learned to like power, and 
do not object to a little skirmishing. Hence there are many always 
on the watch to create disturbance and to overturn a government 
which as yet has never rested on any staple foundation. I noticed, 
however, both here and in other places, a very general interest in 
the ensuing election for the President; and this appears a good sign 
for the prosperity of this little country. The inhabitants do not re- 
quire much education in their representatives; I heard some men 
discussing the merits of those for Colonia; and it was said that, 


"although they were not men of business, they could all sign their 
names:" with this they seemed to think every reasonable man ought 
to be satisfied. 

i8th Rode with my host to his estancia, at the Arroyo de San 
Juan. In the evening we took a ride round the estate: it contained 
two square leagues and a half, and was situated in what is called a 
rincon; that is, one side was fronted by the Plata, and the two others 
guarded by impassable brooks. There was an excellent port for 
little vessels, and an abundance of small wood, which is valuable as 
supplying fuel to Buenos Ayres. I was curious to know the value of 
so complete an estancia. Of cattle there were 3000, and it would 
well support three or four times that number; of mares 800, together 
with 150 broken-in horses, and 600 sheep. There was plenty of 
water and limestone, a rough house, excellent corrals, and a peach 
orchard. For all this he had been offered ^2000, and he only wanted 
^500 additional, and probably would sell it for less. The chief 
trouble with an estancia is driving the cattle twice a week to a 
central spot, in order to make them tame, and to count them. This 
latter operation would be thought difficult, where there are ten or 
fifteen thousand head together. It is managed on the principle that 
the cattle invariably divide themselves into little troops of from forty 
to one hundred. Each troop is recognized by a few peculiarly marked 
animals, and its number is known : so that, one being lost out of ten 
thousand, it is perceived by its absence from one of the tropillas. 
During a stormy night the cattle all mingle together; but the next 
morning the tropillas separate as before; so that each animal must 
know its fellow out of ten thousand others. 

On two occasions I met with in this province some oxen of a very 
curious breed, called nata or niata. They appear externally to hold 
nearly the same relation to other cattle, which bull or pug dogs do 
to other dogs. Their forehead is very short and broad, with the 
nasal end turned up, and the upper lip much drawn back; their 
lower jaws project beyond the upper, and have a corresponding up- 
ward curve; hence their teeth are always exposed. Their nostrils 
are seated high up and are very open; their eyes project outwards. 
When walking they carry their heads low, on a short neck; and 
their hinder legs are rather longer compared with the front legs 


than is usual. Their bare teeth, their short heads, and upturned 
nostrils give them the most ludicrous self-confident air of defiance 

Since my return, I have procured a skeleton head, through the 
kindness of my friend Captain Sulivan, R. N., which is now de- 
posited in the College of Surgeons. 1 Don F. Muniz, of Luxan, has 
kindly collected for me all the information which he could respecting 
this breed. From his account it seems that about eighty or ninety 
years ago, they were rare and kept as curiosities at Buenos Ayres. 
The breed is universally believed to have originated amongst the 
Indians southward of the Plata; and that it was with them the com- 
monest kind. Even to this day, those reared in the provinces near 
the Plata show their less civilized origin, in being fiercer than com- 
mon cattle, and in the cow easily deserting her first calf, if visited 
too often or molested. It is a singular fact that an almost similar 
structure to the abnormal 2 one of the niata breed, characterizes, as 
I am informed by Dr. Falconer, that great extinct ruminant of India, 
the Sivatherium. The breed is very true; and a niata bull and cow 
invariably produce niata calves. A niata bull with a common cow, 
or the reverse cross, produces offspring having an intermediate 
character, but with the niata characters strongly displayed: accord- 
ing to Senor Muniz, there is the clearest evidence, contrary to the 
common belief of agriculturists in analogous cases, that the niata 
cow when crossed with a common bull transmits her peculiarities 
more strongly than the niata bull when crossed with a common 
cow. When the pasture is tolerably long, the niata cattle feed with 
the tongue and palate as well as common cattle; but during the 
great droughts, when so many animals perish, the niata breed is 
under a great disadvantage, and would be exterminated if not at- 
tended to; for the common cattle, like horses, are able just to keep 
alive, by browsing with their lips on twigs of trees and reeds; this 
the niatas cannot so well do, as their lips do not join, and hence they 
are found to perish before the common cattle. This strikes me as a 

1 Mr. Waterhouse has drawn up a detailed description of this head, which I hope 
he will publish in some Journal. 

2 A nearly similar abnormal, but I do not know whether hereditary, structure has 
been observed in the carp, and likewise in the crocodile of the Ganges: Histoire 
des Anomalies, par M. Isid Geoffrey St. Hilaire, torn. I p. 244. 


good illustration of how little we are able to judge from the ordinary 
habits of life, on what circumstances, occurring only at long inter- 
vals, the rarity or extinction of a species may be determined. 

November iqth Passing the valley of Las Vacas, we slept at a 
house of a North American, who worked a lime-kiln on the Arroyo 
de las Vivoras. In the morning we rode to a projecting headland on 
the banks of the river, called Punta Gorda. On the way we tried to 
find a jaguar. There were plenty of fresh tracks, and we visited the 
trees, on which they are said to sharpen their claws; but we did not 
succeed in disturbing one. From this point the Rio Uruguay pre- 
sented to our view a noble volume of water. From the clearness 
and rapidity of the stream, its appearance was far superior to that of 
its neighbour, the Parana. On the opposite coast, several branches 
from the latter river entered the Uruguay. As the sun was shining, 
the two colours of the waters could be seen quite distinct. 

In the evening we proceeded on our road towards Mercedes on 
the Rio Negro. At night we asked permission to sleep at an estancia 
at which we happened to arrive. It was a very large estate, being 
ten leagues square, and the owner is one of the greatest landowners 
in the country. His nephew had charge of it, and with him there 
was a captain in the army, who the other day ran away from Buenos 
Ayres. Considering their station, their conversation was rather 
amusing. They expressed, as was usual, unbounded astonishment 
at the globe being round, and could scarcely credit that a hole would, 
if deep enough, come out on the other side. They had, however, 
heard of a country where there were six months of light and six of 
darkness, and where the inhabitants were very tall and thin! They 
were curious about the price and condition of horses and cattle in 
England. Upon finding out we did not catch our animals with the 
lazo, they cried out, "Ah, then, you use nothing but the bolas:" the 
idea of an enclosed country was quite new to them. The captain at 
last said, he had one question to ask me, which he should be very 
much obliged if I would answer with all truth. I trembled to think 
how deeply scientific it would be: it was, "Whether the ladies of 
Buenos Ayres were not the handsomest in the world." I replied, 
like a renegade, "Charmingly so." He added, "I have one other 
question: Do ladies in any other part of the world wear such large 


combs?" I solemnly assured him that they did not. They were ab- 
solutely delighted. The captain exclaimed, "Look there! a man 
who has seen half the world says it is the case; we always thought 
so, but now we know it." My excellent judgment in combs and 
beauty procured me a most hospitable reception; the captain forced 
me to take his bed, and he would sleep on his recado. 

2ist. Started at sunrise, and rode slowly during the whole day. 
The geological nature of this part of the province was different from 
the rest, and closely resembled that of the Pampas. In consequence, 
there were immense beds of the thistle, as well as of the cardoon: 
the whole country, indeed, may be called one great bed of these 
plants. The two sorts grow separate, each plant in company with 
its own kind. The cardoon is as high as a horse's back, but the 
Pampas thistle is often higher than the crown of the rider's head. 
To leave the road for a yard is out of the question; and the road 
itself is partly, and in some cases entirely closed. Pasture, of course 
there is none; if cattle or horses once enter the bed, they are for the 
time completely lost. Hence it is very hazardous to attempt to drive 
cattle at this season of the year; for when jaded enough to face the 
thistles, they rush among them, and are seen no more. In these 
districts there are very few estancias, and these few are situated in 
the neighbourhood of damp valleys, where fortunately neither of 
these overwhelming plants can exist. As night came on before we 
arrived at our journey's end, we slept at a miserable little hovel in- 
habited by the poorest people. The extreme though rather formal 
courtesy of our host and hostess, considering their grade of life, 
was quite delightful. 

November 22nd. Arrived at an estancia on the Berquelo belong- 
ing to a very hospitable Englishman, to whom I had a letter of 
introduction from my friend Mr. Lumb. I stayed here three days. 
One morning I rode with my host to the Sierra del Pedro Flaco, 
about twenty miles up the Rio Negro. Nearly the whole country 
was covered with good, though coarse, grass, which was as high as 
a horse's belly; yet there were square leagues without a single head 
of cattle. The province of Banda Oriental, if well stocked, would 
support an astonishing number of animals; at present the annual 
export of hides from Monte Video amounts to three hundred 


thousand; and the home consumption, from waste, is very consider- 
able. An "estanciero" told me that he often had to send large herds 
of cattle a long journey to a salting establishment, and that the tired 
beasts were frequently obliged to be killed and skinned; but that he 
could never persuade the Gauchos to eat of them, and every evening 
a fresh beast was slaughtered for their suppers! The view of the 
Rio Negro from the Sierra was more picturesque than any other 
which I saw in this province. The river, broad, deep, and rapid, 
wound at the foot of a rocky precipitous cliff: a belt of wood fol- 
lowed its course, and the horizon terminated in the distant undula- 
tions of the turf-plain. 

When in this neighbourhood, I several times heard of the Sierra 
de las Cuentas: a hill distant many miles to the northward. The 
name signifies hill of beads. I was assured that vast numbers of 
little round stones, of various colours, each with a small cylindrical 
hole, are found there. Formerly the Indians used to collect them, 
for the purpose of making necklaces and bracelets a taste, I may 
observe, which is common to all savage nations, as well as to the 
most polished. I did not know what to understand from this story, 
but upon mentioning it at the Cape of Good Hope to Dr. Andrew 
Smith, he told me that he recollected finding on the south-eastern 
coast of Africa, about one hundred miles to the eastward of St. 
John's river, some quartz crystals with their edges blunted from 
attrition, and mixed with gravel on the sea-beach. Each crystal was 
about five lines in diameter, and from an inch to an inch and a half 
in length. Many of them had a small canal extending from one 
extremity to the other, perfectly cylindrical, and of a size that readily 
admitted a coarse thread or a piece of fine catgut. Their colour was 
red or dull white. The natives were acquainted with this structure 
in crystals. I have mentioned these circumstances because, although 
no crystallized body is at present known to assume this form, it may 
lead some future traveller to investigate the real nature of such stones. 

While staying at this estancia, I was amused with what I saw and 
heard of the shepherd-dogs of the country. 3 When riding, it is a 
common thing to meet a large flock of sheep guarded by one or two 

3 M. A. d'Orbigny has given nearly a similar account of these dogs, torn. i. p. 175. 


dogs, at the distance of some miles from any house or man. I often 
wondered how so firm a friendship had been established. The 
method of education consists in separating the puppy, while very 
young, from the bitch, and in accustoming it to its future compan- 
ions. An ewe is held three or four times a day for the little thing to 
suck, and a nest of wool is made for it in the sheep-pen; at no time 
is it allowed to associate with other dogs, or with the children of 
the family. The puppy is, moreover, generally castrated; so that, 
when grown up, it can scarcely have any feelings in common with 
the rest of its kind. From this education it has no wish to leave the 
flock, and just as another dog will defend its master, man, so will 
these the sheep. It is amusing to observe, when approaching a flock, 
how the dog immediately advances barking, and the sheep all close 
in his rear, as if round the oldest ram. These dogs are also easily 
taught to bring home the flock, at a certain hour in the evening. 
Their most troublesome fault, when young, is their desire of play- 
ing with the sheep; for in their sport they sometimes gallop their 
poor subjects most unmercifully. 

The shepherd-dog comes to the house every day for some meat, 
and as soon as it is given him, he skulks away as if ashamed of him- 
self. On these occasions the house-dogs are very tyrannical, and the 
least of them will attack and pursue the stranger. The minute, how- 
ever, the latter has reached the flock, he turns round and begins to 
bark, and then all the house-dogs take very quickly to their heels. 
In a similar manner a whole pack of the hungry wild dogs will 
scarcely ever (and I was told by some never) venture to attack a 
flock guarded by even one of these faithful shepherds. The whole 
account appears to me a curious instance of the pliability of the 
affections in the dog; and yet, whether wild or however educated, 
he has a feeling of respect or fear for those that are fulfilling their 
instinct of association. For we can understand on no principle the 
wild dogs being driven away by the single one with its flock, except 
that they consider, from some confused notion, that the one thus 
associated gains power, as if in company with its own kind. F. 
Cuvier has observed, that all animals that readily enter into domesti- 
cation, consider man as a member of their own society, and thus 
fulfil their instinct of association. In the above case the shepherd- 


dog ranks the sheep as its fellow-brethren, and thus gains confidence; 
and the wild dogs, though knowing that the individual sheep are 
not dogs, but are good to eat, yet partly consent to this view when 
seeing them in a flock with a shepherd-dog at their head. 

One evening a "domidor" (a subduer of horses) came for the 
purpose of breaking-in some colts. I will describe the preparatory 
steps, for I believe they have not been mentioned by other travellers. 
A troop of wild young horses is driven into the corral, or large en- 
closure of stakes, and the door is shut. We will suppose that one 
man alone has to catch and mount a horse, which as yet had never 
felt bridle or saddle. I conceive, except by a Gaucho, such a feat 
would be utterly impracticable. The Gaucho picks out a full-grown 
colt; and as the beast rushes round the circus, he throws his lazo so 
as to catch both the front legs. Instantly the horse rolls over with 
a heavy shock, and whilst struggling on the ground, the Gaucho, 
holding the lazo tight, makes a circle, so as to catch one of the hind 
legs, just beneath the fedock, and draws it close to the two front 
legs: he then hitches the lazo, so that the three are bound together. 
Then sitting on the horse's neck, he fixes a strong bridle, without a 
bit, to the lower jaw: this he does by passing a narrow thong through 
the eye-holes at the end of the reins, and several times round both 
jaw and tongue. The two front legs are now tied closely together 
with a strong leathern thong, fastened by a slip-knot. The lazo, 
which bound the three together, being then loosed, the horse rises 
with difficulty. The Gaucho now holding fast the bridle fixed to 
the lower jaw, leads the horse outside the corral. If a second man is 
present (otherwise the trouble is much greater) he holds the animal's 
head, whilst the first puts on the horsecloths and saddle, and girths 
the whole together. During this operation, the horse, from dread 
and astonishment at thus being bound round the waist, throws him- 
self over and over again on the ground, and, till beaten, is unwilling 
to rise. At last, when the saddling is finished, the poor animal can 
hardly breathe from fear, and is white with foam and sweat. The 
man now prepares to mount by pressing heavily on the stirrup, so 
that the horse may not lose its balance; and at the moment that he 
throws his leg over the animal's back, he pulls the slip-knot binding 
the front legs, and the beast is free. Some "domidors" pull the knot 


while the animal is lying on the ground, and, standing over the 
saddle, allow him to rise beneath them. The horse, wild with dread, 
gives a few most violent bounds, and then starts off at full gallop: 
when quite exhausted, the man, by patience, brings him back to the 
corral, where, reeking hot and scarcely alive, the poor beast is let 
free. Those animals which will not gallop away, but obstinately 
throw themselves on the ground, are by far the most troublesome. 
This process is tremendously severe, but in two or three trials the 
horse is tamed. It is not, however, for some weeks that the animal is 
ridden with the iron bit and solid ring, for it must learn to associate 
the will of its rider with the feel of the rein, before the most powerful 
bridle can be of any service. 

Animals are so abundant in these countries, that humanity and 
self-interest are not closely united; therefore I fear it is that the 
former is here scarcely known. One day, riding in the Pampas with 
a very respectable "estanciero," my horse, being tired, lagged behind. 
The man often shouted to me to spur him. When I remonstrated 
that it was a pity, for the horse was quite exhausted, he cried out, 
"Why not? never mind spur him it is my horse." I had then 
some difficulty in making him comprehend that it was for the horse's 
sake, and not on his account, that I did not choose to use my spurs. 
He exclaimed, with a look of great surprise, "Ah, Don Carlos, que 
cosa!" It was clear that such an idea had never before entered his 

The Gauchos are well known to be perfect riders. The idea of 
being thrown, let the horse do what it likes, never enters their head. 
Their criterion of a good rider is, a man who can manage an un- 
tamed colt, or who, if his horse falls, alights on his own feet, or can 
perform other such exploits. I have heard of a man betting that he 
would throw his horse down twenty times, and that nineteen times 
he would not fall himself. I recollect seeing a Gaucho riding a very 
stubborn horse, which three times successively reared so high as to 
fall backwards with great violence. The man judged with uncom- 
mon coolness the proper moment for slipping off, not an instant 
before or after the right time; and as soon as the horse got up, the 
man jumped on his back, and at last they started at a gallop. The 
Gaucho never appears to exert any muscular force. I was one day 


watching a good rider, as we were galloping along at a rapid pace, 
and thought to myself, "Surely i the horse starts, you appear so 
careless on your seat, you must fall." At this moment, a male 
ostrich sprang from its nest right beneath the horse's nose: the young 
colt bounded on one side like a stag; but as for the man, all 
that could be said was, that he started and took fright with his 

In Chile and Peru more pains are taken with the mouth of the 
horse than in La Plata, and this is evidently a consequence of the 
more intricate nature of the country. In Chile, a horse is not con- 
sidered perfectly broken, till he can be brought up standing, in the 
midst of his full speed, on any particular spot, for instance, on a 
cloak thrown on the ground: or, again, he will charge a wall, and 
rearing, scrape the surface with his hoofs. I have seen an animal 
bounding with spirit, yet merely reined by a fore-finger and thumb, 
taken at full gallop across a courtyard, and then made to wheel 
round the post of a veranda with great speed, but at so equal a 
distance, that the rider, with outstretched arm, all the while kept 
one finger rubbing the post. Then making a demi-volte in the air, 
with the other arm outstretched in a like manner, he wheeled round, 
with astonishing force, in an opposite direction. 

Such a horse is well broken; and although this at first may appear 
useless, it is far otherwise. It is only carrying that which is daily 
necessary into perfection. When a bullock is checked and caught 
by the lazo, it will sometimes gallop round and round in a circle, 
and the horse being alarmed at the great strain, if not well broken, 
will not readily turn like the pivot of a wheel. In consequence many 
men have been killed; for if the lazo once takes a twist round a 
man's body, it will instantly, from the power of the two opposed 
animals, almost cut him in twain. On the same principle the races 
are managed; the course is only two or three hundred yards long, 
the wish being to have horses that can make a rapid dash. The 
racehorses are trained not only to stand with their hoofs touching a 
line, but to draw all four feet together, so as at the first spring to 
bring into play the full action of the hind-quarters. In Chile I was 
told an anecdote, which I believe was true; and it offers a good 
illustration of the use of a well-broken animal. A respectable man 
riding one day met two others, one of whom was mounted on a 


horse, which he knew to have been stolen from himself. He chal- 
lenged them; they answered him by drawing their sabres and giv- 
ing chase. The man, on his good and fleet beast, kept just ahead: 
as he passed a thick bush he wheeled round it, and brought up his 
horse to a dead check. The pursuers were obliged to shoot on one 
side and ahead. Then instantly dashing on, right behind them, he 
buried his knife in the back of one, wounded the other, recovered 
his horse from the dying robber, and rode home. For these feats of 
horsemanship two things are necessary: a most severe bit, like the 
Mameluke, the power of which, though seldom used, the horse 
knows full well; and large blunt spurs, that can be applied either as 
a mere touch, or as an instrument of extreme pain. I conceive that 
with English spurs, the slightest touch of which pricks the skin, it 
would be impossible to break in a horse after the South American 

At an estancia near Las Vacas large numbers of mares are weekly 
slaughtered for the sake of their hides, although worth only five 
paper dollars, or about half a crown apiece. It seems at first strange 
that it can answer to kill mares for such a trifle; but as it is thought 
ridiculous in this country ever to break in or ride a mare, they are 
of no value except for breeding. The only thing for which I ever 
saw mares used, was to tread out wheat from the ear; for which 
purpose they were driven round a circular enclosure, where the 
wheat-sheaves were strewed. The man employed for slaughtering 
the mares happened to be celebrated for his dexterity with the lazo. 
Standing at the distance of twelve yards from the mouth of the 
corral, he has laid a wager that he would catch by the legs every 
animal, without missing one, as it rushed past him. There was 
another man who said he would enter the corral on foot, catch a 
mare, fasten her front legs together, drive her out, throw her down, 
kill, skin, and stake the hide for drying (which latter is a tedious 
job) ; and he engaged that he would perform this whole operation 
on twenty-two animals in one day. Or he would kill and take the 
skin off fifty in the same time. This would have been a prodigious 
task, for it is considered a good day's work to skin and stake the 
hides of fifteen or sixteen animals. 

November 26th. I set out on my return in a direct line for Monte 
Video. Having heard of some giant's bones at a neighbouring farm- 


house on the Sarandis, a small stream entering the Rio Negro, I rode 
there accompanied by my host, and purchased for the value of 
eighteen pence the head of the Toxodon. 4 When found it was quite 
perfect; but the boys knocked out some of the teeth with stones, and 
then set up the head as a mark to throw at. By a most fortunate 
chance I found a perfect tooth, which exactly fitted one of the sock- 
ets in this skull, embedded by itself on the banks of the Rio Tercero, 
at the distance of about 180 miles from this place. I found remains 
of this extraordinary animal at two other places, so that it must 
formerly have been common. I found here, also, some large portions 
of the armour of a gigantic armadillo-like animal, and part of the 
great head of a Mylodon. The bones of this head are so fresh, that 
they contain, according to the analysis by Mr. T. Reeks, seven per 
cent of animal matter; and when placed in a spirit-lamp, they burn 
with a small flame. The number of the remains embedded in the 
grand estuary deposit which forms the Pampas and covers the 
granitic rocks of Banda Oriental, must be extraordinarily great. I 
believe a straight line drawn in any direction through the Pampas 
would cut through some skeleton or bones. Besides those which I 
found during my short excursions, I heard of many others, and the 
origin of such names as "the stream of the animal," "the hill of the 
giant," is obvious. At other times I heard of the marvellous prop- 
erty of certain rivers, which had the power of changing small bones 
into large; or, as some maintained, the bones themselves grew. As 
far as I am aware, not one of these animals perished, as was formerly 
supposed, in the marshes or muddy river-beds of the present land, 
but their bones have been exposed by the streams intersecting the 
subaqueous deposit in which they were originally embedded. We 
may conclude that the whole area of the Pampas is one wide sepul- 
chre of these extinct gigantic quadrupeds. 

By the middle of the day, on the 28th, we arrived at Monte Video, 
having been two days and a half on the road. The country for the 
whole way was of a very uniform character, some parts being rather 
more rocky and hilly than near the Plata. Not far from Monte Video 

4 I must express my obligation to Mr. Keane, at whose house I was staying on 
the Berquelo, and to Mr. Lumb at Buenos Ayres, for without their assistance these 
valuable remains would never have reached England. 


we passed through the village of Las Pietras, so named from some 
large rounded masses of syenite. Its appearance was rather pretty. 
In this country a few fig-trees round a group of houses, and a site 
elevated a hundred feet above the general level, ought always to be 
called picturesque. 

During the last six months I have had an opportunity of seeing a 
little of the character of the inhabitants of these provinces. The 
Gauchos, or countrymen, are very superior to those who reside in 
the towns. The Gaucho is invariably most obliging, polite, and hos- 
pitable: I did not meet with even one instance of rudeness or in- 
hospitality. He is modest, both respecting himself and country, but 
at the same time a spirited, bold fellow. On the other hand, many 
robberies are committed, and there is much bloodshed: the habit of 
constantly wearing the knife is the chief cause of the latter. It is 
lamentable to hear how many lives are lost in trifling quarrels. In 
fighting, each party tries to mark the face of his adversary by slash- 
ing his nose or eyes; as is often attested by deep and horrid-looking 
scars. Robberies are a natural consequence of universal gambling, 
much drinking, and extreme indolence. At Mercedes I asked two 
men why they did not work. One gravely said the days were too 
long; the other that he was too poor. The number of horses and the 
profusion of food are the destruction of all industry. Moreover, 
there are so many feast-days; and again, nothing can succeed with- 
out it be begun when the moon is on the increase; so that half the 
month is lost from these two causes. 

Police and justice are quite inefficient. If a man who is poor com- 
mits murder and is taken, he will be imprisoned, and perhaps even 
shot; but if he is rich and has friends, he may rely on it no very 
severe consequence will ensue. It is curious that the most respectable 
inhabitants of the country invariably assist a murderer to escape: 
they seem to think that the individual sins against the government, 
and not against the people. A traveller has no protection besides his 
fire-arms; and the constant habit of carrying them is the main check 
to more frequent robberies. 

The character of the higher and more educated classes who reside 
in the towns, partakes, but perhaps in a lesser degree, of the good 


parts of the Gaucho, but is, I fear, stained by many vices of which 
he is free. Sensuality, mockery of all religion, and the grossest cor- 
ruption, are far from uncommon. Nearly every public officer can be 
bribed. The head man in the post-office sold forged government 
franks. The governor and prime minister openly combined to plun- 
der the state. Justice, where gold came into play, was hardly expected 
by any one. I knew an Englishman, who went to the Chief Justice 
(he told me, that not then understanding the ways of the place, he 
trembled as he entered the room), and said, "Sir, I have come to 
ofler you two hundred (paper) dollars (value about five pounds 
sterling) if you will arrest before a certain time a man who has 
cheated me. I know it is against the law, but my lawyer (naming 
him) recommended me to take this step." The Chief Justice smiled 
acquiescence, thanked him, and the man before night was safe in 
prison. With this entire want of principle in many of the leading 
men, with the country full of ill-paid turbulent officers, the people 
yet hope that a democratic form of government can succeed! 

On first entering society in these countries, two or three features 
strike one as particularly remarkable. The polite and dignified man- 
ners pervading every rank of life, the excellent taste displayed by 
the women in their dresses, and the equality amongst all ranks. At 
the Rio Colorado some men who kept the humblest shops used to 
dine with General Rosas. A son of a major at Bahia Blanca gained 
his livelihood by making paper cigars, and he wished to accompany 
me, as guide or servant, to Buenos Ayres, but his father objected on 
the score of the danger alone. Many officers in the army can neither 
read nor write, yet all meet in society as equals. In Entre Rios, the 
Sala consisted of only six representatives. One of them kept a com- 
mon shop, and evidently was not degraded by the office. All this is 
what would be expected in a new country; nevertheless the absence 
of gentlemen by profession appears to an Englishman something 

When speaking of these countries, the manner in which they 
have been brought up by their unnatural parent, Spain, should 
always be borne in mind. On the whole, perhaps, more credit is due 
for what has been done, than blame for that which may be deficient. 
It is impossible to doubt but that the extreme liberalism of these 


countries must ultimately lead to good results. The very general 
toleration of foreign religions, the regard paid to the means of educa- 
tion, the freedom of the press, the facilities offered to all foreigners, 
and especially, as I am bound to add, to every one professing the 
humblest pretensions to science, should be recollected with gratitude 
by those who have visited Spanish South America. 

December 6th. The Beagle sailed from the Rio Plata, never again 
to enter its muddy stream. Our course was directed to Port Desire ; 
on the coast of Patagonia. Before proceeding any further, I will 
here put together a few observations made at sea. 

Several times when the ship has been some miles of? the mouth 
of the Plata, and at other times when off the shores of Northern 
Patagonia, we have been surrounded by insects. One evening, when 
we were about ten miles from the Bay of San Bias, vast numbers of 
butterflies, in bands or flocks of countless myriads, extended as far 
as the eye could range. Even by the aid of a telescope it was not pos- 
sible to see a space free from butterflies. The seamen cried out "it 
was snowing butterflies," and such in fact was the appearance. More 
species than one were present, but the main part belonged to a kind 
very similar to, but not identical with, the common English Colias 
edusa. Some moths and hymenoptera accompanied the butterflies; 
and a fine beetle (Calosoma) flew on board. Other instances are 
known of this beetle having been caught far out at sea; and this is 
the more remarkable, as the greater number of the Carabidae seldom 
or never take wing. The day had been fine and calm, and the one 
previous to it equally so, with light and variable airs. Hence we 
cannot suppose that the insects were blown off the land, but we 
must conclude that they voluntarily took flight. The great bands of 
the Colias seem at first to afford an instance like those on record of 
the migrations of another butterfly, Vanessa cardui; 3 but the presence 
of other insects makes the case distinct, and even less intelligible. 
Before sunset a strong breeze sprung up from the north, and this 
must have caused tens of thousands of the butterflies and other in- 
sects to have perished. 

On another occasion, when seventeen miles off Cape Corrientes, 
I had a net overboard to catch pelagic animals. Upon drawing it 
5 Lyell's Principles of Geology, vol. iii. p. 63. 


up, to my surprise, I found a considerable number of beetles in it, 
and although in the open sea, they did not appear much injured by 
the salt water. I lost some of the specimens, but those which I pre- 
served belonged to the genera Colymbetes, Hydroporus, Hydrobius 
(two species), Notaphus, Cynucus, Adimonia, and Scarabaeus. At 
first, I thought that these insects had been blown from the shore; 
but, upon reflecting that out of the eight species four were aquatic 
and two others partly so in their habits, it appeared to me most 
probable that they were floated into the sea by a small stream which 
drains a lake near Cape Corrientes. On any supposition it is an 
interesting circumstance to find live insects swimming in the open 
ocean seventeen miles from the nearest point of land. There are 
several accounts of insects having been blown of! the Patagonian 
shore. Captain Cook observed it, as did more lately Captain King 
of the Adventure. The cause probably is due to the want of shelter, 
both of trees and hills, so that an insect on the wing with an off-shore 
breeze, would be very apt to be blown out to sea. The most remark- 
able instance I have known of an insect being caught far from the 
land, was that of a large grasshopper (Acrydium), which flew on 
board, when the Beagle was to windward of the Cape de Verd 
Islands, and when the nearest point of land, not directly opposed to 
the trade-wind, was Cape Blanco on the coast of Africa, 370 miles 
distant. 6 

On several occasions, when the Beagle has been within the mouth 
of the Plata, the rigging has been coated with the web of the Gos- 
samer Spider. One day (November ist, 1832) I paid particular 
attention to this subject. The weather had been fine and clear, and 
in the morning the air was full of patches of the flocculent web, as 
on an autumnal day in England. The ship was sixty miles distant 
from the land, in the direction of a steady, though light, breeze. 
Vast numbers of a small spider, about one-tenth of an inch in length, 
and of a dusky red colour, were attached to the webs. There must 
have been, I should suppose, some thousands on the ship. The little 
spider, when first coming in contact with the rigging, was always 
seated on a single thread, and not on the flocculent mass. This lat- 

6 The flies which frequently accompany a ship for some days on its passage from 
harbour to harbour, wandering from the vessel, are soon lost, and all disappear. 


ter seems merely to be produced by the entanglement of the single 
threads. The spiders were all of one species, but of both sexes, 
together with young ones. These latter were distinguished by their 
smaller size and more dusky colour. I will not give the description 
of this spider, but merely state that it does not appear to me to be 
included in any of Latreille's genera. The little aeronaut as soon as 
it arrived on board was very active, running about, sometimes let- 
ting itself fall, and then reascending the same thread; sometimes 
employing itself in making a small and very irregular mesh in the 
corners between the ropes. It could run with facility on the surface 
of the water. When disturbed it lifted up its front legs, in the atti- 
tude of attention. On its first arrival it appeared very thirsty, and 
with exserted maxillae drank eagerly of drop*, of water; this same 
circumstance has been observed by Strack: may it not be in conse- 
quence of the little insect having passed through a dry and rarefied 
atmosphere? Its stock of web seemed inexhaustible. While watch- 
ing some that were suspended by a single thread, I several times 
observed that the slightest breath of air bore them away out of sight, 
in a horizontal line. 

On another occasion (25th) under similar circumstances, I re- 
peatedly observed the same kind of small spider, either when placed 
or having crawled on some little eminence, elevate its abdomen, send 
forth a thread, and then sail away horizontally, but with a rapidity 
which was quite unaccountable. I thought I could perceive that the 
spider, before performing the above preparatory steps, connected its 
legs together with the most delicate threads, but I am not sure 
whether this observation was correct. 

One day, at St. Fe, I had a better opportunity of observing some 
similar facts. A spider which was about three-tenths of an inch in 
length, and which in its general appearance resembled a Citigrade 
(therefore quite different from the gossamer), while standing on the 
summit of a post, darted forth four or five threads from its spinners. 
These, glittering in the sunshine, might be compared to diverging 
rays of light; they were not, however, straight, but in undulations 
like films of silk blown by the wind. They were more than a yard 
in length, and diverged in an ascending direction from the orifices. 
The spider then suddenly let go its hold of the post, and was quickly 


borne out of sight. The day was hot and apparently calm; yet under 
such circumstances, the atmosphere can never be so tranquil as not 
to affect a vane so delicate as the thread of a spider's web. If during 
a warm day we look either at the shadow of any object cast on a 
bank, or over a level plain at a distant landmark, the effect of an 
ascending current of heated air is almost always evident: such up- 
ward currents, it has been remarked, are also shown by the ascent 
of soap-bubbles, which will not rise in an in-doors room. Hence I 
think there is not much difficulty in understanding the ascent of the 
fine lines projected from a spider's spinners, and afterwards of the 
spider itself; the divergence of the lines has been attempted to be 
explained, I believe by Mr. Murray, by their similar electrical con- 
dition. The circumstance of spiders of the same species, but of 
different sexes and ages, being found on several occasions at the 
distance of many leagues from the land, attached in vast numbers 
to the lines, renders it probable that the habit of sailing through the 
air is as characteristic of this tribe, as that of diving is of the 
Argyroneta. We may then reject Latreille's supposition, that the 
gossamer owes its origin indifferently to the young of several genera 
of spiders : although, as we have seen, the young of other spiders do 
possess the power of performing aerial voyages. 7 

During our different passages south of the Plata, I often towed 
astern a net made of bunting, and thus caught many curious animals. 
Of Crustacea there were many strange and undescribed genera. One, 
which in some respects is allied to the Notopods (or those crabs which 
have their posterior legs placed almost on their backs, for the purpose 
of adhering to the under side of rocks), is very remarkable from the 
structure of its hind pair of legs. The penultimate joint, instead of 
terminating in a simple claw, ends in three bristle-like appendages of 
dissimilar lengths the longest equalling that of the entire leg. These 
claws are very thin, and are serrated with the finest teeth, directed 
backwards: their curved extremities are flattened, and on this part five 
most minute cups are placed which seem to act in the same manner as 
the suckers on the arms of the cuttle-fish. As the animal lives in the 

7 Mr. Black wall, in his Researches in Zoology, has many excellent observations 
on the habits of spiders. 


open sea, and probably wants a place of rest, I suppose this beautiful 
and most anomalous structure is adapted to take hold of floating ma- 
rine animals. 

In deep water, far from the land, the number of living creatures is 
extremely small: south of the latitude 35, I never succeeded in catch- 
ing anything besides some beroe, and a few species of minute en- 
tomostracous Crustacea. In shoaler water, at the distance of a few 
miles from the coast, very many kinds of Crustacea and some other 
animals are numerous, but only during the night. Between latitudes 
56 and 57 south of Cape Horn, the net was put astern several 
times; it never, however, brought up anything besides a few of two 
extremely minute species of Entomostraca. Yet whales and seals, 
petrels and albatross, are exceedingly abundant throughout this part 
of the ocean. It has always been a mystery to me on what the 
albatross, which lives far from the shore, can subsist; I presume that, 
like the condor, it is able to fast long; and that one good feast on the 
carcass of a putrid whale lasts for a long time. The central and 
intertropical parts of the Atlantic swarm with Pteropoda, Crustacea, 
and Radiata, and with their devourers the flying-fish, and again 
with their devourers the bonitos and albicores; I presume that the 
numerous lower pelagic animals feed on the Infusoria, which are 
now known, from the researches of Ehrenberg, to abound in the 
open ocean : but on what, in the clear blue water, do these Infusoria 

While sailing a little south of the Plata on one very dark night, 
the sea presented a wonderful and most beautiful spectacle. There 
was a fresh breeze, and every part of the surface, which during the 
day is seen as foam, now glowed with a pale light. The vessel drove 
before her bows two billows of liquid phosphorus, and in her wake 
she was followed by a milky train. As far as the eye reached, the 
crest of every wave was bright, and the sky above the horizon, from 
the reflected glare of these livid flames, was not so utterly obscure as 
over the vault of the heavens. 

As we proceed further southward the sea is seldom phosphorescent; 
and of! Cape Horn I do not recollect more than once having seen it 
so, and then it was far from being brilliant. This circumstance 


probably has a close connection with the scarcity of organic beings 
in that part of the ocean. After the elaborate paper, 8 by Ehrenberg, 
on the phosphorescence of the sea, it is almost superfluous on my 
part to make any observations on the subject. I may however add, 
that the same torn and irregular particles of gelatinous matter, de- 
scribed by Ehrenberg, seem in the southern as well as in the north- 
ern hemisphere, to be the common cause of this phenomenon. 
The particles were so minute as easily to pass through fine gauze; 
yet many were distinctly visible by the naked eye. The water when 
placed in a tumbler and agitated, gave out sparks, but a small por- 
tion in a watch-glass scarcely ever was luminous. Ehrenberg states 
that these particles all retain a certain degree of irritability. My 
observations, some of which were made directly after taking up the 
water, gave a different result. I may also mention, that having used 
the net during one night, I allowed it to become partially dry, and 
having occasion twelve hours afterwards to employ it again, I found 
the whole surface sparkled as brightly as when first taken out of 
the water. It does not appear probable in this case, that the particles 
could have remained so long alive. On one occasion having kept a 
jelly-fish of the genus Dianaea till it was dead, the water in which 
it was placed became luminous. When the waves scintillate with 
bright green sparks, I believe it is generally owing to minute crus- 
tacea. But there can be no doubt that very many other pelagic 
animals, when alive, are phosphorescent. 

On two occasions I have observed the sea luminous at considerable 
depths beneath the surface. Near the mouth of the Plata some cir- 
cular and oval patches, from two to four yards in diameter, and with 
defined outlines, shone with a steady but pale light; while the sur- 
rounding water only gave out a few sparks. The appearance re- 
sembled the reflection of the moon, or some luminous body; for the 
edges were sinuous from the undulations of the surface. The ship, 
which drew thirteen feet of water, passed over, without disturbing 
these patches. Therefore we must suppose that some animals were 
congregated together at a greater depth than the bottom of the vessel. 

Near Fernando Noronha the sea gave out light in flashes. The 
appearance was very similar to that which might be expected from 

8 An abstract is given in No. IV. of the Magazine of Zoology and Botany. 


a large fish moving rapidly through a luminous fluid. To this cause 
the sailors attributed it; at the time, however, I entertained some 
doubts, on account of the frequency and rapidity of the flashes. I 
have already remarked that the phenomenon is very much more 
common in warm than in cold countries; and I have sometimes 
imagined that a disturbed electrical condition of the atmosphere 
was most favourable to its production. Certainly I think the sea is 
most luminous after a few days of more calm weather than ordinary, 
during which time it has swarmed with various animals. Observ- 
ing that the water charged with gelatinous particles is in an impure 
state, and that the luminous appearance in all common cases is pro- 
duced by the agitation of the fluid in contact with the atmosphere, 
I am inclined to consider that the phosphorescence is the result of 
the decomposition of the organic particles, by which process (one 
is tempted almost to call it a kind of respiration) the ocean becomes 

December 2^rd.We arrived at Port Desire, situated in lat. 47, 
on the coast of Patagonia. The creek runs for about twenty miles 
inland, with an irregular width. The Beagle anchored a few miles 
within the entrance, in front of the ruins of an old Spanish settle- 

The same evening I went on shore. The first landing in any new 
country is very interesting, and especially when, as in this case, the 
whole aspect bears the stamp of a marked and individual character. 
At the height of between two and three hundred feet above some 
masses of porphyry a wide plain extends, which is truly characteristic 
of Patagonia. The surface is quite level, and is composed of well- 
rounded shingle mixed with a whitish earth. Here and there scat- 
tered tufts of brown wiry grass are supported, and still more rarely, 
some low thorny bushes. The weather is dry and pleasant, and the 
fine blue sky is but seldom obscured. When standing in the middle 
of one of these desert plains and looking towards the interior, the 
view is generally bounded by the escarpment of another plain, rather 
higher, but equally level and desolate; and in every other direction 
the horizon is indistinct from the trembling mirage which seems to 
rise from the heated surface. 


In such a country the fate of the Spanish settlement was soon de- 
cided; the dryness of the climate during the greater part of the year, 
and the occasional hostile attacks of the wandering Indians, com- 
pelled the colonists to desert their half-finished buildings. The style, 
however, in which they were commenced shows the strong and 
liberal hand of Spain in the old time. The result of all the attempts 
to colonize this side of America south of 41, has been miserable. 
Port Famine expresses by its name the lingering and extreme suf- 
ferings of several hundred wretched people, of whom one alone 
survived to relate their misfortunes. At St. Joseph's Bay, on the coast 
of Patagonia, a small settlement was made; but during one Sunday 
the Indians made an attack and massacred the whole party, excepting 
two men, who remained captives during many years. At the Rio 
Negro I conversed with one of these men, now in extreme old age. 

The zoology of Patagonia is as limited as its flora. 9 On the arid 
plains a few black beetles (Heteromera) might be seen slowly crawl- 
ing about, and occasionally a lizard darted from side to side. Of 
birds we have three carrion hawks, and in the valleys a few finches 
and insect-feeders. An ibis (Theristicus melanops a species said to 
be found in central Africa) is not uncommon on the most desert 
parts: in their stomachs I found grasshoppers, cicadas, small lizards, 
and even scorpions. 10 At one time of the year these birds go in 
flocks, at another in pairs; their cry is very loud and singular, like 
the neighing of the guanaco. 

The guanaco, or wild llama, is the characteristic quadruped of the 
plains of Patagonia; it is the South American representative of the 
camel of the East. It is an elegant animal in a state of nature, with 
a long slender neck and fine legs. It is very common over the whole 
of the temperate parts of the continent, as far south as the islands 
near Cape Horn. It generally lives in small herds of from half a 

9 1 found here a species of cactus, described by Professor Henslow, under the name 
of Opuntia Darwinii (Magazine of Zoology and Botany, vol. i. p. 466), which was 
remarkable for the irritability of the stamens, when I inserted either a piece of stick 
or the end of my finger in the flower. The segments of the perianth also closed on 
the pistil, but more slowly than the stamens. Plants of this family, generally con- 
sidered as tropical, occur in North America (Lewis and Clarke's Travels, p. 221), in 
the same high latitude as here, namely, in both cases, in 47. 

10 These insects were not uncommon beneath stones. I found one cannibal scorpion 
quietly devouring another. 


dozen to thirty in each; but on the banks of the St. Cruz we saw 
one herd which must have contained at least five hundred. 

They are generally wild and extremely wary. Mr. Stokes told me 
that he one day saw through a glass a herd of these animals which 
evidently had been frightened, and were running away at full speed, 
although their distance was so great that he could not distinguish 
them with his naked eye. The sportsman frequently receives the 
first notice of their presence, by hearing from a long distance their 
peculiar shrill neighing note of alarm. If he then looks attentively, 
he will probably see the herd standing in a line on the side of some 
distant hill. On approaching nearer, a few more squeals are given, 
and off they set at an apparently slow, but really quick canter, along 
some narrow beaten track to a neighbouring hill. If, however, by 
chance he abruptly meets a single animal, or several together, they 
will generally stand motionless and intently gaze at him; then per- 
haps move on a few yards, turn round, and look again. What is 
the cause of this difference in their shyness? Do they mistake a 
man in the distance for their chief enemy, the puma? Or does 
curiosity overcome their timidity? That they are curious is certain; 
for if a person lies on the ground, and plays strange antics, such as 
throwing up his feet in the air, they will almost always approach by 
degrees to reconnoitre him. It was an artifice that was repeatedly 
practised by our sportsmen with success, and it had moreover the 
advantage of allowing several shots to be fired, which were all taken 
as parts of the performance. On the mountains of Tierra del Fuego, 
I have more than once seen a guanaco, on being approached, not 
only neigh and squeal, but prance and leap about in the most 
ridiculous manner, apparently in defiance as a challenge. These 
animals are very easily domesticated, and I have seen some thus kept 
in northern Patagonia near a house, though not under any restraint. 
They are in this state very bold, and readily attack a man by strik- 
ing him from behind with both knees. It is asserted that the motive 
for these attacks is jealousy on account of their females. The wild 
guanacos, however, have no idea of defence; even a single dog will 
secure one of these large animals, till the huntsman can come up. 
In many of their habits they are like sheep in a flock. Thus, when 


they see men approaching in several directions on horseback, they 
soon become bewildered, and know not which way to run. This 
greatly facilitates the Indian method of hunting, for they are thus 
easily driven to a central point, and are encompassed. 

The guanacos readily take to the water: several times at Port 
Valdes they were seen swimming from island to island. Byron, in 
his voyage, says he saw them drinking salt water. Some of our 
officers likewise saw a herd apparently drinking the briny fluid from 
a salina near Cape Blanco. I imagine in several parts of the country, 
if they do not drink salt water, they drink none at all. In the middle 
of the day they frequently roll in the dust, in saucer-shaped hollows. 
The males fight together; two one day passed quite close to me, 
squealing and trying to bite each other; and several were shot with 
their hides deeply scored. Herds sometimes appear to set out on 
exploring parties: at Bahia Blanca, where, within thirty miles of 
the coast, these animals are extremely unfrequent, I one day saw the 
tracks of thirty or forty, which had come in a direct line to a muddy 
salt-water creek. They then must have perceived that they were 
approaching the sea, for they had wheeled with the regularity of 
cavalry, and had returned back in as straight a line as they had 
advanced. The guanacos have one singular habit, which is to me 
quite inexplicable; namely, that on successive days they drop their 
dung in the same defined heap. I saw one of these heaps which was 
eight feet in diameter, and was composed of a large quantity. This 
habit, according to M. A. d'Orbigny, is common to all the species 
of the genus; it is very useful to the Peruvian Indians, who use the 
dung for fuel, and are thus saved the trouble of collecting it. 

The guanacos appear to have favourite spots for lying down to 
die. On the banks of the St. Cruz, in certain circumscribed spaces, 
which were generally bushy and all near the river, the ground was 
actually white with bones. On one such spot I counted between ten 
and twenty heads. I particularly examined the bones; they did not 
appear, as some scattered ones which I had seen, gnawed or broken, 
as if dragged together by beasts of prey. The animals in most cases 
must have crawled, before dying, beneath and amongst the bushes. 
Mr. Bynoe informs me that during a former voyage he observed the 
same circumstance on the banks of the Rio Gallegos. I do not at all 


understand the reason of this, but I may observe, that the wounded 
guanacos at the St. Cruz invariably walked towards the river. At 
St. Jago in the Cape de Verd Islands, I remember having seen in a 
ravine a retired corner covered with bones of the goat; we at the 
time exclaimed that it was the burial ground of all the goats in the 
island. I mention these trifling circumstances, because in certain 
cases they might explain the occurrence of a number of uninjured 
bones in a cave, or buried under alluvial accumulations; and like- 
wise the cause why certain animals are more commonly embedded 
than others in sedimentary deposits. 

One day the yawl was sent under the command of Mr. Chaffers 
with three days' provisions to survey the upper part of the harbour. 
In the morning we searched for some watering-places mentioned in 
an old Spanish chart. We found one creek, at the head of which 
there was a trickling rill (the first we had seen) of brackish water. 
Here the tide compelled us to wait several hours; and in the interval 
I walked some miles into the interior. The plain as usual consisted 
of gravel, mingled with soil resembling chalk in appearance, but 
very different from it in nature. From the softness of these materials 
it was worn into many gulleys. There was not a tree, and, excepting 
the guanaco, which stood on the hill-top a watchful sentinel over 
its herd, scarcely an animal or a bird. All was stillness and desolation. 
Yet in passing over these scenes, without one bright object near, an 
ill-defined but strong sense of pleasure is vividly excited. One asked 
how many ages the plain had thus lasted, and how many more it 
was doomed thus to continue. 

"None can reply all seems eternal now. 
The wilderness has a mysterious tongue, 
Which teaches awful doubt." n 

In the evening we sailed a few miles further up, and then pitched 
the tents for the night. By the middle of the next day the yawl was 
aground, and from the shoalness of the water could not proceed any 
higher. The water being found partly fresh, Mr. Chaffers took the 
dingey and went up two or three miles further, where she also 
grounded, but in a fresh-water river. The water was muddy, and 

11 Shelley, Lines on Mt. Blanc. 


though the stream was most insignificant in size, it would be difficult 
to account for its origin, except from the melting snow on the Cordil- 
lera. At the spot where we bivouacked, we were surrounded by bold 
cliffs and steep pinnacles of porphyry. I do not think I ever saw a 
spot which appeared more secluded from the rest of the world, than 
this rocky crevice in the wide plain. 

The second day after our return to the anchorage, a party of officers 
and myself went to ransack an old Indian grave, which I had found 
on the summit of a neighbouring hill. Two immense stones, each 
probably weighing at least a couple of tons, had been placed in front 
of a ledge of rock about six feet high. At the bottom of the grave on 
the hard rock there was a layer of earth about a foot deep, which 
must have been brought up from the plain below. Above it a pave- 
ment of flat stones was placed, on which others were piled, so as to 
fill up the space between the ledge and the two great blocks. To 
complete the grave, the Indians had contrived to detach from the 
ledge a huge fragment, and to throw it over the pile so as to rest on 
the two blocks. We undermined the grave on both sides, but could 
not find any relics, or even bones. The latter probably had decayed 
long since (in which case the grave must have been of extreme an- 
tiquity), for I found in another place some smaller -heaps, beneath 
which a very few crumbling fragments could yet be distinguished as 
having belonged to a man. Falconer states, that where an Indian dies 
he is buried, but that subsequently his bones are carefully taken up 
and carried, let the distance be ever so great, to be deposited near the 
sea-coast. This custom, I think, may be accounted for by recollecting, 
that before the introduction of horses, these Indians must have led 
nearly the same life as the Fuegians now do, and therefore generally 
have resided in the neighbourhood of the sea. The common preju- 
dice of lying where one's ancestors have lain, would make the now 
roaming Indians bring the less perishable part of their dead to their 
ancient burial-ground on the coast. 

January yth, /^.Before it was dark the Beagle anchored in the 
fine spacious harbour of Port St. Julian, situated about one hundred 
and ten miles to the south of Port Desire. We remained here eight 
days. The country is nearly similar to that of Port Desire, but per- 
haps rather more sterile. One day a party accompanied Captain 


Fitz Roy on a long walk round the head of the harbour. We were 
eleven hours without tasting any water, and some of the party were 
quite exhausted. From the summit of a hill (since well named 
Thirsty Hill) a fine lake was spied, and two of the party proceeded 
with concerted signals to show whether it was fresh water. What 
was our disappointment to find a snow-white expanse of salt, crys- 
tallized in great cubes! We attributed our extreme thirst to the dry- 
ness of the atmosphere; but whatever the cause might be, we were 
exceedingly glad late in the evening to get back to the boats. Al- 
though we could nowhere find, during our whole visit, a single drop 
of fresh water, yet some must exist; for by an odd chance I found 
on the surface of the salt water, near the head of the bay, a Colym- 
betes not quite dead, which must have lived in some not far distant 
pool. Three other insects (a Cincindela, like hybrida, a Cymindis, 
and a Harpalus, which all live on muddy flats occasionally over- 
flowed by the sea), and one other found dead on the plain, complete 
the list of the beetles. A good-sized fly (Tabanus) was extremely 
numerous, and tormented us by its painful bite. The common 
horsefly, which is so troublesome in the shady lanes of England, 
belongs to this same genus. We here have the puzzle that so fre- 
quently occurs in the case of musquitoes on the blood of what 
animals do these insects commonly feed ? The guanaco is nearly the 
only warm-blooded quadruped, and it is found in quite inconsid- 
erable numbers compared with the multitude of flies. 

The geology of Patagonia is interesting. Differently from Europe, 
where the tertiary formations appear to have accumulated in bays, 
here along hundreds of miles of coast we have one great deposit, 
including many tertiary shells, all apparently extinct. The most com- 
mon shell is a massive gigantic oyster, sometimes even a foot in 
diameter. These beds are covered by others of a peculiar soft white 
stone, including much gypsum, and resembling chalk, but really of 
a pumiceous nature. It is highly remarkable, from being composed, 
to at least one-tenth of its bulk, of Infusoria. Professor Ehrenberg 
has already ascertained in it thirty oceanic forms. This bed extends 
for 500 miles along the coast, and probably for a considerably greater 
distance. At Port St. Julian its thickness is more than 800 feet! These 


white beds are everywhere capped by a mass of gravel, forming 
probably one of the largest beds of shingle in the world: it certainly 
extends from near the Rio Colorado to between 600 and 700 nautical 
miles southward; at Santa Cruz (a river a little south of St. Julian), 
it reaches to the foot of the Cordillera; half way up the river, its 
thickness is more than 200 feet; it probably everywhere extends to 
this great chain, whence the well-rounded pebbles of porphyry have 
been derived : we may consider its average breadth as 200 miles, and 
its average thickness as about 50 feet. If this great bed of pebbles, 
without including the mud necessarily derived from their attrition, 
was piled into a mound, it would form a great mountain chain! 
When we consider that all these pebbles, countless as the grains of 
sand in the desert, have been derived from the slow falling of masses 
of rock on the old coast-lines and banks of rivers; and that these 
fragments have been dashed into smaller pieces, and that each of 
them has since been slowly rolled, rounded, and far transported, the 
mind is stupefied in thinking over the long, absolutely necessary, 
lapse of years. Yet all this gravel has been transported, and probably 
rounded, subsequently to the deposition of the white beds, and long 
subsequently to the underlying beds with the tertiary shells. 

Everything in this southern continent has been effected on a grand 
scale: the land, from the Rio Plata to Tierra del Fuego, a distance 
of 1200 miles, has been raised in mass (and in Patagonia to a height 
of between 300 and 400 feet), within the period of the now existing 
sea-shells. The old and weathered shells left on the surface of the 
upraised plain still partially retain their colours. The uprising move- 
ment has been interrupted by at least eight long periods of rest, dur- 
ing which the sea ate deeply back into the land, forming at successive 
levels the long lines of cliffs, or escarpments, which separate the dif- 
ferent plains as they rise like steps one behind the other. The elevatory 
movement, and the eating-back power of the sea during the periods of 
rest, have been equable over long lines of coast; for I was astonished 
to find that the step-like plains stand at nearly corresponding heights 
at far distant points. The lowest plain is 90 feet high; and the highest, 
which I ascended near the coast, is 950 feet; and of this, only relics 
are left in the form of flat gravel-capped hills. The upper plain of 
Santa Cruz slopes up to a height of 3000 feet at the foot of the 


Cordillera. I have said that within the period of existing sea-shells, 
Patagonia has been upraised 300 to 400 feet: I may add, that within 
the period when icebergs transported boulders over the upper plain 
of Santa Cruz, the elevation has been at least 1500 feet. Nor has 
Patagonia been affected only by upward movements: the extinct 
tertiary shells from Port St. Julian and Santa Cruz cannot have lived, 
according to Professor E. Forbes, in a greater depth of water than 
from 40 to 250 feet; but they are now covered with sea-deposited 
strata from 800 to 1000 feet in thickness: hence the bed of the sea, 
on which these shells once lived, must have sunk downwards several 
hundred feet, to allow of the accumulation of the superincumbent 
strata. What a history of geological changes does the simply- 
constructed coast of Patagonia reveal! 

At Port St. Julian, 12 in some red mud capping the gravel on the 90- 
feet plain, I found half the skeleton of the Macrauchenia Pata- 
chonica, a remarkable quadruped, full as large as a camel. It belongs 
to the same division of the Pachydermata with the rhinoceros, tapir, 
and palaeotherium ; but in the structure of the bones of its long neck it 
shows a clear relation to the camel, or rather to the guanaco and 
llama. From recent sea-shells being found on two of the higher 
step-formed plains, which must have been modelled and upraised 
before the mud was deposited in which the Macrauchenia was en- 
tombed, it is certain that this curious quadruped lived long after the 
sea was inhabited by its present shells. I was at first much surprised 
how a large quadruped could so lately have subsisted, in lat. 49 15', 
on these wretched gravel plains, with their stunted vegetation; but 
the relationship of the Macrauchenia to the Guanaco, now an in- 
habitant of the most sterile parts, partly explains this difficulty. 

The relationship, though distant, between the Macrauchenia and 
the Guanaco, between the Toxodon and the Capybara, the closer 
relationship between the many extinct Edentata and the living sloths, 
ant-eaters, and armadillos, now so eminently characteristic of South 
American zoology, and the still closer relationship between the 
fossil and living species of Ctenomys and Hydrochserus, are most 

12 1 have lately heard that Capt. Sulivan, R.N., has found numerous fossil bones, 
embedded in regular strata, on the banks of the R. Gallegos, in lat. 51 4'. Some 
of the bones are large; others are small, and appear to have belonged to an armadillo. 
This is a most interesting and important discovery. 


interesting facts. This relationship is shown wonderfully as won- 
derfully as between the fossil and extinct Marsupial animals of 
Australia by the great collection lately brought to Europe from the 
caves of Brazil by MM. Lund and Clausen. In this collection there 
are extinct species of all the thirty-two genera, excepting four, of the 
terrestrial quadrupeds now inhabiting the provinces in which the 
caves occur; and the extinct species are much more numerous than 
those now living: there are fossil ant-eaters, armadillos, tapirs, pec- 
caries, guanacos, opossums, and numerous South American gnawers 
and monkeys, and other animals. This wonderful relationship in the 
same continent between the dead and the living, will, I do not 
doubt, hereafter throw more light on the appearance of organic 
beings on our earth, and their disappearance from it, than any other 
class of facts. 

It is impossible to reflect on the changed state of the American 
continent without the deepest astonishment. Formerly it must have 
swarmed with great monsters: now we find mere pigmies, compared 
with the antecedent, allied races. If Buffon had known of the 
gigantic sloth and armadillo-like animals, and of the lost Pachy- 
dermata, he might have said with a greater semblance of truth that 
the creative force in America had lost its power, rather than that it 
had never possessed great vigour. The greater number, if not all, of 
these extinct quadrupeds lived at a late period, and were the con- 
temporaries of most of the existing sea-shells. Since they lived, no 
very great change in the form of the land can have taken place. 
What, then, has exterminated so many species and whole genera? 
The mind at first is irresistibly hurried into the belief of some great 
catastrophe; but thus to destroy animals, both large and small, in 
Southern Patagonia, in Brazil, on the Cordillera of Peru, in North 
America up to Behring's Straits, we must shake the entire frame- 
work of the globe. An examination, moreover, of the geology of La 
Plata and Patagonia, leads to the belief that all the features of the 
land result from slow and gradual changes. It appears from the 
character of the fossils in Europe, Asia, Australia, and in North and 
South America, that those conditions which favour the life of the 
larger quadrupeds were lately co-extensive with the world: what 
those conditions were, no one has yet even conjectured. It could 


hardly have been a change of temperature, which at about the same 
time destroyed the inhabitants of tropical, temperate, and arctic 
latitudes on both sides of the globe. In North America we positively 
know from Mr. Lyell, that the large quadrupeds lived subsequently 
to that period, when boulders were brought into latitudes at which 
icebergs now never arrive: from conclusive but indirect reasons we 
may feel sure, that in the southern hemisphere the Macrauchenia, 
also, lived long subsequently to the ice-transporting boulder-period. 
Did man, after his first inroad into South America, destroy, as has 
been suggested, the unwieldy Megatherium and the other Edentata ? 
We must at least look to some other cause for the destruction of the 
little tucutuco at Bahia Blanca, and of the many fossil mice and other 
small quadrupeds in Brazil. No one will imagine that a drought, 
even far severer than those which cause such losses in the provinces 
of La Plata, could destroy every individual of every species from 
Southern Patagonia to Behring's Straits. What shall we say of the 
extinction of the horse ? Did those plains fail of pasture, which have 
since been overrun by thousands and hundreds of thousands of the 
descendants of the stock introduced by the Spaniards? Have the 
subsequently introduced species consumed the food of the great ante- 
cedent races? Can we believe that the Capybara has taken the food 
of the Toxodon, the Guanaco of the Macrauchenia, the existing small 
Edentata of their numerous gigantic prototypes? Certainly, no fact 
in the long history of the world is so startling as the wide and repeated 
exterminations of its inhabitants. 

Nevertheless, if we consider the subject under another point of 
view, it will appear less perplexing. We do not steadily bear in mind, 
how profoundly ignorant we are of the conditions of existence of 
every animal; nor do we always remember, that some check is con- 
stantly preventing the too rapid increase of every organized being left 
in a state of nature. The supply of food, on an average, remains con- 
stant; yet the tendency -in every animal to increase by propagation is 
geometrical; and its surprising effects have nowhere been more 
astonishingly shown, than in the case of the European animals run 
wild during the last few centuries in America. Every animal in a 
state of nature regularly breeds; yet in a species long established, any 
great increase in numbers is obviously impossible, and must be 


checked by some means. We are, nevertheless, seldom able with cer- 
tainty to tell in any given species, at what period of life, or at what 
period of the year, or whether only at long intervals, the check falls; 
or, again, what is the precise nature of the check. Hence probably it 
is, that we feel so little surprise at one, of two species closely allied in 
habits, being rare and the other abundant in the same district; or, 
again, that one should be abundant in one district, and another, 
filling the same place in the economy of nature, should be abundant 
in a neighbouring district, differing very little in its conditions. If 
asked how this is, one immediately replies that it is determined by 
some slight difference, in climate, food, or the number of enemies: 
yet how rarely, if ever, we can point out the precise cause and manner 
of action of the check! We are, therefore, driven to the conclusion, 
that causes generally quite inappreciable by us, determine whether a 
given species shall be abundant or scanty in numbers. 

In the cases where we can trace the extinction of a species through 
man, either wholly or in one limited district, we know that it becomes 
rarer and rarer, and is then lost: it would be difficult to point out any 
just distinction 13 between a species destroyed by man or by the in- 
crease of its natural enemies. The evidence of rarity preceding 
extinction, is more striking in the successive tertiary strata, as re- 
marked by several able observers; it has often been found that a shell 
very common in a tertiary stratum is now most rare, and has even 
long been thought to be extinct. If then, as appears probable, species 
first become rare and then extinct if the too rapid increase of every 
species, even the most favoured, is steadily checked, as we must 
admit, though how and when it is hard to say and if we see, with- 
out the smallest surprise, though unable to assign the precise reason, 
one species abundant and another closely allied species rare in the 
same district why should we feel such great astonishment at the 
rarity being carried a step further to extinction? An action going on, 
on every side of us, and yet barely appreciable, might surely be carried 
a little further, without exciting our observation. Who would feel 
any great surprise at hearing that the Magalonyx was formerly rare 
compared with the Megatherium, or that one of the fossil monkeys 

13 See the excellent remarks on this subject by Mr. Lyell, in his Principles of 


was few in number compared with one of the now living monkeys? 
and yet in this comparative rarity, we should have the plainest evi- 
dence of less favourable conditions for their existence. To admit that 
species generally become rare before they become extinct to feel no 
surprise at the comparative rarity of one species with another, and 
yet to call in some extraordinary agent and to marvel greatly when a 
species ceases to exist, appears to me much the same as to admit that 
sickness in the individual is the prelude to death to feel no surprise 
at sickness but when the sick man dies to wonder, and to believe 
that he died through violence. 


Santa Cruz Expedition up the River Indians Immense Streams of 
Basaltic Lava Fragments not transported by the River Excavation 
of the Valley Condor, Habits of Cordillera Erratic Boulders of 
great size Indian Relics Return to the Ship Falkland Islands 
Wild Horses, Cattle, Rabbits Wolf-like Fox Fire made of Bones- 
Manner of Hunting Wild Cattle Geology Streams of Stones Scenes 
of Violence Penguin Geese Eggs of Doris Compound Animals. 

/I PRIL ijth, 1834. The Beagle anchored within the mouth 
/J of the Santa Cruz. This river is situated about sixty miles 
^. JL south of Port St. Julian. During the last voyage Captain 
Stokes proceeded thirty miles up it, but then, from the want of 
provisions, was obliged to return. Excepting what was discovered at 
that time, scarcely anything was known about this large river. Cap- 
tain Fitz Roy now determined to follow its course as far as time 
would allow. On the i8th three whale-boats started, carrying three 
weeks' provisions; and the party consisted of twenty-five souls a 
force which would have been sufficient to have defied a host of 
Indians. With a strong flood-tide and a fine day we made a good 
run, soon drank some of the fresh water, and were at night nearly 
above the tidal influence. 

The river here assumed a size and appearance which, even at the 
highest point we ultimately reached, was scarcely diminished. It was 
generally from three to four hundred yards broad, and in the middle 
about seventeen feet deep. The rapidity of the current, which in its 
whole course runs at the rate of from four to six knots an hour, is 
perhaps its most remarkable feature. The water is of a fine blue 
colour, but with a slight milky tinge, and not so transparent as at 
first sight would have been expected. It flows over a bed of pebbles, 
like those which compose the beach and the surrounding plains. It 
runs in a winding course through a valley, which extends in a direct 



line westward. This valley varies from five to ten miles in breadth; 
it is bounded by step-formed terraces, which rise in most parts, one 
above the other, to the height of five hundred feet, and have on the 
opposite sides a remarkable correspondence. 

April iqth. Against so strong a current it was, of course, quite 
impossible to row or sail : consequently the three boats were fastened 
together head and stern, two hands left in each, and the rest came on 
shore to track. As the general arrangements made by Captain Fitz 
Roy were very good for facilitating the work of all, and as all had a 
share in it, I will describe the system. The party including every one, 
was divided into two spells, each of which hauled at the tracking line 
alternately for an hour and a half. The officers of each boat lived 
with, ate the same food, and slept in the same tent with their crew, 
so that each boat was quite independent of the others. After sunset 
the first level spot where any bushes were growing, was chosen for 
our night's lodging. Each of the crew took it in turns to be cook. 
Immediately the boat was hauled up, the cook made his fire; two 
others pitched the tent; the coxswain handed the things out of the 
boat; the rest carried them up to the tents and collected firewood. 
By this order, in half an hour everything was ready for the night. 
A watch of two men and an officer was always kept, whose duty it 
was to look after the boats, keep up the fire, and guard against In- 
dians. Each in the party had his one hour every night. 

During this day we tracked but a short distance, for there were 
many islets, covered by thorny bushes, and the channels between 
them were shallow. 

April 20th. We passed the islands and set to work. Our regular 
day's march, although it was hard enough, carried us on an average 
only ten miles in a straight line, and perhaps fifteen or twenty alto- 
gether. Beyond the place where we slept last night, the country is 
completely terra incognita, for it was there that Captain Stokes 
turned back. We saw in the distance a great smoke, and found the 
skeleton of a horse, so we knew that Indians were in the neighbour- 
hood. On the next morning (21 st) tracks of a party of horse, and 
marks left by the trailing of the chuzos, or long spears, were observed 
on the ground. It was generally thought that the Indians had recon- 


noitred us during the night. Shortly afterwards we came to a spot 
where, from the fresh footsteps of men, children, and horses, it was 
evident that the party had crossed the river. 

April 22nd. The country remained the same, and was extremely 
uninteresting. The complete similarity of the productions throughout 
Patagonia is one of its most striking characters. The level plains of 
arid shingle support the same stunted and dwarf plants; and in the 
valleys the same thorn-bearing bushes grow. Everywhere we see the 
same birds and insects. Even the very banks of the river and of the 
clear streamlets which entered it, were scarcely enlivened by a 
brighter tint of green. The curse of sterility is on the land, and the 
water flowing over a bed of pebbles partakes of the same curse. 
Hence the number of waterfowl is very scanty; for there is nothing 
to support life in the stream of this barren river. 

Patagonia, poor as she is in some respects, can however boast of 
a greater stock of small rodents 1 than perhaps any other country in 
the world. Several species of mice are externally characterized by 
large thin ears and a very fine fur. These little animals swarm 
amongst the thickets in the valleys, where they cannot for months 
together taste a drop of water excepting the dew. They all seem to 
be cannibals; for no sooner was a mouse caught in one of my traps 
than it was devoured by others. A small and delicately shaped fox, 
which is likewise very abundant, probably derives its entire support 
from these small animals. The guanaco is also in his proper district; 
herds of fifty or a hundred were common; and, as I have stated, we 
saw one which must have contained at least five hundred. The 
puma, with the condor and other carrion-hawks in its train, follows 
and preys upon these animals. The footsteps of the puma were to 
be seen almost everywhere on the banks of the river; and the re- 
mains of several guanacos, with their necks dislocated and bones 
broken, showed how they had met their death. 

April 24th Like the navigators of old when approaching an 
unknown land, we examined and watched for the most trivial sign 
of a change. The drifted trunk of a tree, or a boulder of primitive 
rock, was hailed with joy, as if we had seen a forest growing on the 

^he deserts of Syria are characterized, according to Volney (torn. i. p. 351), by 
woody bushes, numerous rats, gazelles and hares. In the landscape of Patagonia, 'the 
guanaco replaces the gazelle, and the agouti the hare. 


flanks of the Cordillera. The top, however, of a heavy bank of clouds, 
which remained almost constantly in one position, was the most 
promising sign, and eventually turned out a true harbinger. At 
first the clouds were mistaken for the mountains themselves, instead 
of the masses of vapour condensed by their icy summits. 

April 26th. We this day met with a marked change in the geo- 
logical structure of the plains. From the first starting I had carefully 
examined the gravel in the river, and for the two last days had no- 
ticed the presence of a few small pebbles of a very cellular basalt. 
These gradually increased in number and in size, but none were 
as large as a man's head. This morning, however, pebbles of the 
same rock, but more compact, suddenly became abundant, and in 
the course of half an hour we saw, at the distance of five or six miles, 
the angular edge of a great basaltic platform. When we arrived at 
its base we found the stream bubbling among the fallen blocks. For 
the next twenty-eight miles the river-course was encumbered with 
these basaltic masses. Above that limit, immense fragments of primi- 
tive rocks, derived from its surrounding boulder-formation, were 
equally numerous. None of the fragments of any considerable size 
had been washed more than three or four miles down the river below 
their parent-source: considering the singular rapidity of the great 
body of water in the Santa Cruz, and that no still reaches occur in 
any part, this example is a most striking one, of the inefficiency of 
rivers in transporting even moderately-sized fragments. 

The basalt is only lava, which has flowed beneath the sea; but the 
eruptions must have been on the grandest scale. At the 
point where we first met this formation it was 120 feet in thickness; 
following up the river course, the surface imperceptibly rose and the 
mass became thicker, so that at forty miles above the first station it 
was 320 feet thick. What the thickness may be close to the Cordillera, 
I have no means of knowing, but the platform there attains a height 
of about three thousand feet above the level of the sea: we must 
therefore look to the mountains of that great chain for its source; 
and worthy of such a source are streams that have flowed over the 
gently inclined bed of the sea to a distance of one hundred miles. At 
the first glance of the basaltic cliffs on the opposite sides of the valley, 
it was evident that the strata once were united. What power, then, 


has removed along a whole line of country, a solid mass of very hard 
rock, which had an average thickness of nearly three hundred feet, 
and a breadth varying from rather less than two miles to four miles? 
The river, though it has so little power in transporting even incon- 
siderable fragments, yet in the lapse of ages might produce by its 
gradual erosion an effect of which it is difficult to judge the amount. 
But in this case, independently of the insignificance of such an 
agency, good reasons can be assigned for believing that this valley 
was formerly occupied by an arm of the sea. It is needless in this 
work to detail the arguments leading to this conclusion, derived 
from the form and the nature of the step-formed terraces on both 
sides of the valley, from the manner in which the bottom of the 
valley near the Andes expands into a great estuary-like plain with 
sand-hillocks on it, and from the occurrence of a few sea-shells lying 
in the bed of the river. If I had space I could prove that South Amer- 
ica was formerly here cut off by a strait, joining the Atlantic and 
Pacific oceans, like that of Magellan. But it may yet be asked, how 
has the solid basalt been moved? Geologists formerly would have 
brought into play, the violent action of some overwhelming debacle; 
but in this case such a supposition would have been quite inadmis- 
sible; because, the same step-like plains with existing sea-shells lying 
on their surface, which front the long line of the Patagonian coast, 
sweep up on each side of the valley of Santa Cruz. No possible action 
of any flood could thus have modelled the land, either within the 
valley or along the open coast; and by the formation of such step- 
like plains or terraces the valley itself had been hollowed out. Al- 
though we know that there are tides, which run within the Narrows 
of the Strait of Magellan at the rate of eight knots an hour, yet we 
must confess that it makes the head almost giddy to reflect on the 
number of years, century after century, which the tides, unaided by 
a heavy surf, must have required to have corroded so vast an area 
and thickness of solid basaltic lava. Nevertheless, we must believe 
that the strata undermined by the waters of this ancient strait, were 
broken up into huge fragments, and these lying scattered on the 
beach, were reduced first to smaller blocks, then to pebbles and lastly 
to the most impalpable mud, which the tides drifted far into the 
Eastern or Western Ocean. 


With the change in the geological structure of the plains the char- 
acter of the landscape likewise altered. While rambling up some 
of the narrow and rocky defiles, I could almost have fancied myself 
transported back again to the barren valleys of the island of St. Jago. 
Among the basaltic clifls, I found some plants which I had seen 
nowhere else, but others I recognised as being wanderers from Tierra 
del Fuego. These porous rocks serve as a reservoir for the scanty 
rain-water; and consequently on the line where the igneous and 
sedimentary formations unite, some small springs (most rare occur- 
rences in Patagonia) burst forth; and they could be distinguished 
at a distance by the circumscribed patches of bright green herbage. 

April 2jth. The bed of the river became rather narrower, and 
hence the stream more rapid. It here ran at the rate of six knots an 
hour. From this cause, and from the many great angular fragments, 
tracking the boats became both dangerous and laborious. 

This day I shot a condor. It measured from tip to tip of the wings, 
eight and a half feet, and from beak to tail, four feet. This bird is 
known to have a wide geographical range, being found on the west 
coast of South America, from the Strait of Magellan along the 
Cordillera as far as eight degrees north of the equator. The steep 
cliff near the mouth of the Rio Negro is its northern limit on the 
Patagonian coast; and they have there wandered about four hundred 
miles from the great central line of their habitation in the Andes. 
Further south, among the bold precipices at the head of Port Desire, 
the condor is not uncommon; yet only a few stragglers occasionally 
visit the seacoast. A line of clift" near the mouth of the Santa Cruz 
is frequented by these birds, and about eighty miles up the river, 
where the sides of the valley are formed by steep basaltic precipices, 
the condor reappears. From these facts, it seems that the condors 
require perpendicular clifls. In Chile, they haunt, during the greater 
part of the year, the lower country near the shores of the Pacific, 
and at night several roost together in one tree; but in the early part 
of summer, they retire to the most inaccessible parts of the inner 
Cordillera, there to breed in peace. 

With respect to their propagation, I was told by the country people 
in Chile, that the condor makes no sort of nest, but in the months 


of November and December lays two large white eggs on a shelf 
of bare rock. It is said that the young condors cannot fly for an 
entire year; and long after they are able, they continue to roost by 
night, and hunt by day with their parents. The old birds generally 
live in pairs; but among the inland basaltic cliffs of the Santa Cruz, 
I found a spot, where scores must usually haunt. On coming sud- 
denly to the brow of the precipice, it was a grand spectacle to see 
between twenty and thirty of these great birds start heavily from 
their resting-place, and wheel away in majestic circles. From the 
quantity of dung on the rocks, they must long have frequented this 
cliff for roosting and breeding. Having gorged themselves with 
carrion on the plains below, they retire to these favourite ledges to 
digest their food. From these facts, the condor, like the gallinazo, 
must to a certain degree be considered as a gregarious bird. In this 
part of the country they live altogether on the guanacos which have 
died a natural death, or as more commonly happens, have been killed 
by the pumas. I believe, from what I saw in Patagonia, that they do 
not on ordinary occasions extend their daily excursions to any great 
distance from their regular sleeping-places. 

The condors may oftentimes foe seen at a great height, soaring 
over a certain spot in the most graceful circles. On some occasions 
I am sure that they do this only for pleasure, but on others, the 
Chileno countryman tells you that they are watching a dying animal, 
or the puma devouring its prey. If the condors glide down, and then 
suddenly all rise together, the Chileno knows that it is the puma 
which, watching the carcass, has sprung out to drive away the rob- 
bers. Besides feeding on carrion, the condors frequently attack young 
goats and lambs; and the shepherd-dogs are trained, whenever they 
pass over, to run out, and looking upwards to bark violently. The 
Chilenos destroy and catch numbers. Two methods are used; one 
is to place a carcass on a level piece of ground within an enclosure 
of sticks with an opening, and when the condors are gorged, to 
gallop up on horseback to the entrance, and thus enclose them: for 
when this bird has not space to run, it cannot give its body sufficient 
momentum to rise from the ground. The second method is to mark 
the trees in which, frequently to the number of five or six together, 
they roost, and then at night to climb up and noose them. They 


are such heavy sleepers, as I have myself witnessed, that this is not 
a difficult task. At Valparaiso, I have seen a living condor sold for 
sixpence, but the common price is eight or ten shillings. One which 
I saw brought in, had been tied with rope, and was much injured; 
yet, the moment the line was cut by which its bill was secured, al- 
though surrounded by people, it began ravenously to tear a piece 
of carrion. In a garden at the same place, between twenty and thirty 
were kept alive. They were fed only once a week, but they appeared 
in pretty good health. 2 The Chileno countrymen assert that the 
condor will live, and retain its vigour, between five and six weeks 
without eating: I cannot answer for the truth of this, but it is a 
cruel experiment, which very likely has been tried. 

When an animal is killed in the country, it is well known that 
the condors, like other carrion-vultures, soon gain intelligence of 
it, and congregate in an inexplicable manner. In most cases it must 
not be overlooked, that the birds have discovered their prey, and 
have picked the skeleton clean, before the flesh is in the least degree 
tainted. Remembering the experiments of M. Audubon, on the 
little smelling powers of carrion-hawks, I tried in the above-men- 
tioned garden the following experiment: the condors were tied, each 
by a rope, in a long row at the bottom of a wall; and having folded 
up a piece of meat in white paper, I walked backwards and forwards, 
carrying it in my hand at the distance of about three yards from 
them, but no notice whatever was taken. I then threw it on the 
ground, within one yard of an old male bird; he looked at it for a 
moment with attention, but then regarded it no more. With a stick 
I pushed it closer and closer, until at last he touched it with his beak; 
the paper was then instantly torn off with fury, and at the same 
moment, every bird in the long row began struggling and flapping 
its wings. Under the same circumstances, it would have been quite 
impossible to have deceived a dog. The evidence in favour of and 
against the acute smelling powers of carrion-vultures is singularly 
balanced. Professor Owen has demonstrated that the olfactory nerves 
of the turkey-buzzard (Cathartes aura) are highly developed; and 
on the evening when Mr. Owen's paper was read at the Zoological 

2 1 noticed that several hours before any one of the condors died, all the lice, with 
which it was infested, crawled to the outside feathers. I was assured that this 
always happened. 


Society, it was mentioned by a gentleman that he had seen the 
carrion-hawks in the West Indies on two occasions collect on the 
roof of a house, when a corpse had become offensive from not having 
been buried; in this case, the intelligence could hardly have been 
acquired by sight. On the other hand, besides the experiments of 
Audubon and that one by myself, Mr. Bachman has tried in the 
United States many varied plans, showing that neither the turkey- 
buzzard (the species dissected by Professor Owen) nor the gallinazo 
find their food by smell. He covered portions of highly-offensive 
offal with a thin canvas cloth, and strewed pieces of meat on it: 
these the carrion-vultures ate up, and then remained quietly standing, 
with their beaks within the eighth of an inch of the putrid mass, 
without discovering it. A small rent was made in the canvas, and 
the offal was immediately discovered; the canvas was replaced by a 
fresh piece, and meat again put on it, and was again devoured by the 
vultures without their discovering the hidden mass on which they 
were trampling. These facts are attested by the signatures of six 
gentlemen, besides that of Mr. Bachman. 3 

Often when lying down to rest on the open plains, on looking 
upwards, I have seen carrion-hawks sailing through the air at a 
great height. Where the country is level I do not believe a space of 
the heavens, of more than fifteen degrees above the horizon, is com- 
monly viewed with any attention by a person either walking or on 
horseback. If such be the case, and the vulture is on the wing at a 
height of between three and four thousand feet, before it could come 
within the range of vision, its distance in a straight line from the 
beholder's eye, would be rather more than two British miles. Might 
it not thus readily be overlooked ? When an animal is killed by the 
sportsman in a lonely valley, may he not all the while be watched 
from above by the sharp-sighted bird? And will not the manner of 
its descent proclaim throughout the district to the whole family of 
carrion-feeders, that their prey is at hand? 

When the condors are wheeling in a flock round and round any 

spot, their flight is beautiful. Except when rising from the ground, 

I do not recollect ever having seen one of these birds flap its wings. 

Near Lima, I watched several for nearly half an hour, without once 

3 Loudon's Magazine of Nat. Hist., vol. vii. 


taking off my eyes: they moved in large curves, sweeping in circles, 
descending and ascending without giving a single flap. As they 
glided close over my head, I intently watched from an oblique posi- 
tion, the outlines of the separate and great terminal feathers of each 
wing; and these separate feathers, if there had been the least vibra- 
tory movement, would have appeared as if blended together; but 
they were seen distinct against the blue sky. The head and neck were 
moved frequently, and apparently with force; and the extended 
wings seemed to form the fulcrum on which the movements of the 
neck, body, and tail acted. If the bird wished to descend, the wings 
were for a moment collapsed; and when again expanded with an 
altered inclination, the momentum gained by the rapid descent 
seemed to urge the bird upwards with the even and steady movement 
of a paper kite. In the case of any bird soaring, its motion must be 
sufficiently rapid so that the action of the inclined surface of its body 
on the atmosphere may counterbalance its gravity. The force to keep 
up the momentum of a body moving in a horizontal plane in the air 
(in which there is so little friction) cannot be great, and this force 
is all that is wanted. The movement of the neck and body of the 
condor, we must suppose, is sufficient for this. However this may 
be, it is truly wonderful and beautiful to see so great a bird, hour 
after hour, without any apparent exertion, wheeling and gliding over 
mountain and river. 

April 2gth. From some high land we hailed with joy the white 
summits of the Cordillera, as they were seen occasionally peeping 
through their dusky envelope of clouds. During the few succeeding 
days we continued to get on slowly, for we found the river-course 
very tortuous, and strewed with immense fragments of various 
ancient slaty rocks, and of granite. The plain bordering the valley 
had here attained an elevation of about noo feet above the river, and 
its character was much altered. The well-rounded pebbles of por- 
phyry were mingled with many immense angular fragments of 
basalt and of primary rocks. The first of these erratic boulders which 
I noticed, was sixty-seven miles distant from the nearest mountain; 
another which I measured was five yards square, and projected five 
feet above the gravel. Its edges were so angular, and its size so great, 


that I at first mistook it for a rock in situ, and took out my compass 
to observe the direction of its cleavage. The plain here was not 
quite so level as that nearer the coast, but yet it betrayed no signs of 
any great violence. Under these circumstances it is, I believe, quite 
impossible to explain the transportal of these gigantic masses of 
rock so many miles from their parent-source, on any theory except 
by that of floating icebergs. 

During the two last days we met with signs of horses, and with 
several small articles which had belonged to the Indians such as 
parts of a mantle and a bunch of ostrich feathers but they appeared 
to have been lying long on the ground. Between the place where 
the Indians had so lately crossed the river and this neighbourhood, 
though so many miles apart, the country appears to be quite unfre- 
quented. At first, considering the abundance of the guanacos, I was 
surprised at this; but it is explained by the stony nature of the plains, 
which would soon disable an unshod horse from taking part in the 
chase. Nevertheless, in two places in this very central region, I found 
small heaps of stones, which I do not think could have been acci- 
dentally thrown together. They were placed on points, projecting 
over the edge of the highest lava clifT, and they resembled, but on a 
small scale, those near Port Desire. 

May qth. Captain Fitz Roy determined to take the boats no 
higher. The river had a winding course, and was very rapid; and 
the appearance of the country offered no temptation to proceed any 
further. Everywhere we met with the same productions, and the 
same dreary landscape. We were now one hundred and forty miles 
distant from the Atlantic, and about sixty from the nearest arm of 
the Pacific. The valley in this upper part expanded into a wide 
basin, bounded on the north and south by the basaltic platforms, 
and fronted by the long range of the snow-clad Cordillera. But we 
viewed these grand mountains with regret, for we were obliged to 
imagine their nature and productions, instead of standing, as we 
had hoped, on their summits. Besides the useless loss of time which 
an attempt to ascend the river any higher would have cost us, 
we had already been for some days on half allowance of bread. 
This, although really enough for reasonable men, was, after a hard 
day's march, rather scanty food: a light stomach and an easy diges- 


tion are good things to talk about, but very unpleasant in practice. 
$th. Before sunrise we commenced our descent. We shot down 
the stream with great rapidity, generally at the rate of ten knots an 
hour. In this one day we effected what had cost us five-and-a-half 
hard days' labour in ascending. On the 8th, we reached the Beagle 
after our twenty-one days' expedition. Every one, excepting myself, 
had cause to be dissatisfied; but to me the ascent afforded a most 
interesting section of the great tertiary formation of Patagonia. 

On March ist, 1833, and again on March i6th, 1834, the Beagle 
anchored in Berkeley Sound, in East Falkland Island. This archi- 
pelago is situated in nearly the same latitude with the mouth of the 
Strait of Magellan; it covers a space of one hundred and twenty by 
sixty geographical miles, and is a little more than half the size of 
Ireland. After the possession of these miserable islands had been 
contested by France, Spain, and England, they were left uninhabited. 
The government of Buenos Ayres then sold them to a private indi- 
vidual, but likewise used them, as old Spain had done before, for a 
penal setdement. England claimed her right and seized them. The 
Englishman who was left in charge of the flag was consequently 
murdered. A British officer was next sent, unsupported by any 
power : and when we arrived, we found him in charge of a popula- 
tion, of which rather more than half were runaway rebels and 

The theatre is worthy of the scenes acted on it. An undulating 
land, with a desolate and wretched aspect, is everywhere covered 
by a peaty soil and wiry grass, of one monotonous brown colour. 
Here and there a peak or ridge of grey quart,z rock breaks through 
the smooth surface. Every one has heard of the climate of these 
regions; it may be compared to that which is experienced at the' 
height of between one and two thousand feet, on the mountains of 
North Wales; having however less sunshine and less frost, but more 
wind and rain. 4 

4 From accounts published since our voyage, and more especially from several 
interesting letters from Capt. Sulivan, R.N., employed on the survey, it appears that 
we took an exaggerated view of the badness of the climate of these islands. But 
when I reflect on the almost universal covering of peat, and on the fact of wheat 
seldom ripening here, I can hardly believe that the climate in summer is so fine 
and dry as it has lately been represented. 


!()th. I will now describe a short excursion which I made round 
a part of this island. In the morning I started with six horses and 
two Gauchos: the latter were capital men for the purpose, and well 
accustomed to living on their own resources. The weather was very 
boisterous and cold, with heavy hail-storms. We got on, however, 
pretty well, but, except the geology, nothing could be less interesting 
than our day's ride. The country is uniformly the same undulating 
moorland; the surface being covered by light brown withered grass 
and a few very small shrubs, all springing out of an elastic peaty 
soil. In the valleys here and there might be seen a small flock of wild 
geese, and everywhere the ground was so soft that the snipe were 
able to feed. Besides these two birds there were few others. There 
is one main range of hills, nearly two thousand feet in height, and 
composed of quartz rock, the rugged and barren crests of which 
gave us some trouble to cross. On the south side we came to the best 
country for wild cattle; we met, however, no great number, for they 
had been lately much harassed. 

In the evening we came across a small herd. One of my com- 
panions, St. Jago by name, soon separated a fat cow; he threw the 
bolas, and it struck her legs, but failed in becoming entangled. Then 
dropping his hat to mark the spot where the balls were left, while at 
full gallop, he uncoiled his lazo, and after a most severe chase, again 
came up to the cow, and caught her round the horns. The other 
Gaucho had gone on ahead with the spare horses, so that St. Jago 
had some difficulty in killing the furious beast. He managed to get 
her on a level piece of ground, by taking advantage of her as often 
as she rushed at him; and when she would not move, my horse, from 
having been trained, would canter up, and with his chest give her a 
violent push. But when on level ground it does not appear an easy 
job for one man to kill a beast mad with terror. Nor would it be 
so, if the horse, when left to itself without its rider, did not soon 
learn, for its own safety, to keep the lazo tight; so that, if the cow 
or ox moves forward, the horse moves just as quickly forward; 
otherwise, it stands motionless leaning on one side. This horse, how- 
ever, was a young one, and would not stand still, but gave in to the 
cow as she struggled. It was admirable to see with what dexterity 
St. Jago dodged behind the beast, till at last he contrived to give the 


fatal touch to the main tendon of the hind leg; after which, without 
much difficulty, he drove his knife into the head of the spinal mar- 
row, and the cow dropped as if struck by lightning. He cut off pieces 
of flesh with the skin to it, but without any bones, sufficient for our 
expedition. We then rode on to our sleeping-place, and had for 
supper "carne con cuero," or meat roasted with the skin on it. This 
is as superior to common beef as venison is to mutton. A large cir- 
cular piece taken from the back is roasted on the embers with the 
hide downwards and in the form of a saucer, so that none of the 
gravy is lost. If any worthy alderman had supped with us that 
evening, "carne con cuero," without doubt, would soon have been 
celebrated in London. 

During the night it rained, and the next day (iyth) was very 
stormy, with much hail and snow. We rode across the island to the 
neck of land which joins the Rincon del Toro (the great peninsula 
at the S. W. extremity) to the rest of the island. From the great 
number of cows which have been killed, there is a large proportion 
of bulls. These wander about single, or two and three together, and 
are very savage. I never saw such magnificent beasts; they equalled 
in the size of their huge heads and necks the Grecian marble sculp- 
tures. Capt. Sulivan informs me that the hide of an average-sized 
bull weighs forty-seven pounds, whereas a hide of this weight, less 
thoroughly dried, is considered as a very heavy one at Monte Video. 
The young bulls generally run away, for a short distance; but the 
old ones do not stir a step, except to rush at man and horse; and many 
horses have been thus killed. An old bull crossed a boggy stream, 
and took his stand on the opposite side to us; we in vain tried to 
drive him away, and failing, were obliged to make a large circuit. 
The Gauchos in revenge determined to emasculate him and render 
him for the future harmless. It was very interesting to see how art 
completely mastered force. One lazo was thrown over his horns as 
he rushed at the horse, and another round his hind legs: in a minute 
the monster was stretched powerless on the ground. After the lazo 
has once been drawn tightly round the horns of a furious animal, it 
does not at first appear an easy thing to disengage it again without 
killing the beast: nor, I apprehend, would it be so if the man was by 
himself. By the aid, however, of a second person throwing his lazo 


so as to catch both hind legs, it is quickly managed: for the animal, 
as long as its hind legs are kept outstretched, is quite helpless, and 
the first man can with his hands loosen his lazo from the horns, and 
then quietly mount his horse; but the moment the second man, by 
backing ever so little, relaxes the strain, the lazo slips of? the legs 
of the struggling beast, which then rises free, shakes himself, and 
vainly rushes at his antagonist. 

During our whole ride we saw only one troop of wild horses. 
These animals, as well as the cattle, were introduced by the French 
in 1764, since which time both have greatly increased. It is a curious 
fact, that the horses have never left the eastern end of the island, 
although there is no natural boundary to prevent them from roam- 
ing, and that part of the island is not more tempting than the rest. 
The Gauchos whom I asked, though asserting this to be the case, 
were unable to account for it, except from the strong attachment 
which horses have to any locality to which they are accustomed. 
Considering that the island does not appear fully stocked, and that 
there are no beasts of prey, I was particularly curious to know what 
has checked their originally rapid increase. That in a limited island 
some check would sooner or later supervene, is inevitable; but why 
has the increase of the horse been checked sooner than that of the 
cattle? Capt. Sulivan has taken much pains for me in this inquiry. 
The Gauchos employed here attribute it chiefly to the stallions con- 
stantly roaming from place to place, and compelling the mares to 
accompany them, whether or not the young foals are able to follow. 
One Gaucho told Capt. Sulivan that he had watched a stallion for 
a whole hour, violently kicking and biting a mare till he forced her 
to leave her foal to its fate. Capt. Sulivan can so far corroborate this 
curious account, that he has several times found young foals dead, 
whereas he has never found a dead calf. Moreover, the dead bodies 
of full-grown horses are more frequently found, as if more subject 
to disease or accidents, than those of the cattle. From the softness 
of the ground their hoofs often grow irregularly to a great length, 
and this causes lameness. The predominant colours are roan and 
iron-grey. All the horses bred here, both tame and wild, are rather 
small-sized, though generally in good condition; and they have lost 
so much strength, that they are unfit to be used in taking wild cattle 


with the lazo: in consequence, it is necessary to go to the great ex- 
pense of importing fresh horses from the Plata. At some future 
period the southern hemisphere probably will have its breed of 
Falkland ponies, as the northern has its Shetland breed. 

The cattle, instead of having degenerated like the horse, seem, as 
before remarked, to have increased in size; and they are much more 
numerous than the horses. Capt. Sulivan informs me that they vary 
much less in the general form of their bodies and in the shape of 
their horns than English cattle. In colour they differ much; and 
it is a remarkable circumstance, that in different parts of this one 
small island, different colours predominate. Round Mount Usborne, 
at a height of from 1000 to 1500 feet above the sea, about half of 
some of the herds are mouse or lead-coloured, a tint which is not 
common in other parts of the island. Near Port Pleasant dark brown 
prevails, whereas south of Choiseul Sound (which almost divides 
the island into two parts), white beasts with black heads and feet 
are the most common: in all parts black, and some spotted animals 
may be observed. Capt. Sulivan remarks, that the difference in the 
prevailing colours was so obvious, that in looking for the herds near 
Port Pleasant, they appeared from a long distance like black spots, 
whilst south of Choiseul Sound they appeared like white spots on 
the hill-sides. Capt. Sulivan thinks that the herds do not mingle; 
and it is a singular fact, that the mouse-coloured cattle, though living 
on the high land, calve about a month earlier in the season than the 
other coloured beasts on the lower land. It is interesting thus to find 
the once domesticated cattle breaking into three colours, of which 
some one colour would in all probability ultimately prevail over the 
others, if the herds were left undisturbed for the next several cen- 

The rabbit is another animal which has been introduced, and has 
succeeded very well; so that they abound over large parts of the 
island. Yet, like the horses, they are confined within certain limits; 
for they have not crossed the central chain of hills, nor would they 
have extended even so far as its base, if, as the Gauchos informed 
me, small colonies had not been carried there. I should not have 
supposed that these animals, natives of northern Africa, could have 
existed in a climate so humid as this, and which enjoys so little sun- 


shine that even wheat ripens only occasionally. It is asserted that in 
Sweden, which any one would have thought a more favourable 
climate, the rabbit cannot live out of doors. The first few pairs, 
moreover, had here to contend against pre-existing enemies, in the 
fox and some large hawks. The French naturalists have considered 
the black variety a distinct species, and called it Lepus Magellanicus. 5 
They imagined -that Magellan, when talking of an animal under the 
name of "conejos" in the Strait of Magellan, referred to this species; 
but he was alluding to a small cavy, which to this day is thus called 
by the Spaniards. The Gauchos laughed at the idea of the black 
kind being different from the grey, and they said that at all events it 
had not extended its range any further than the grey kind; that the 
two were never found separate; and that they readily bred together, 
and produced piebald offspring. Of the latter I now possess a speci- 
men, and it is marked about the head diflerendy from the French 
specific description. This circumstance shows how cautious natural- 
ists should be in making species; for even Cuvier, on looking at the 
skull of one of these rabbits, thought it was probably distinct! 

The only quadruped native to the island 6 is a large wolf-like fox 
(Canis antarcticus), which is common to both East and West Falk- 
land. I have no doubt it is a peculiar species, and confined to this 
archipelago; because many sealers, Gauchos, and Indians, who have 
visited these islands, all maintain that no such animal is found in any 
part of South America. 

Molina, from a similarity in habits, thought that this was the same 
with his "culpeu;" 7 but I have seen both, and they are quite distinct. 
These wolves are well known, from Byron's account of their tame- 
ness and curiosity, which the sailors, who ran into the water to 
avoid them, mistook for fierceness. To this day their manners remain 

5 Lesson's Zoology of the Voyage of the Coquille, torn. i. p. 168. All the early- 
voyagers, and especially Bougainville, distinctly state that the wolf-like fox was the 
only native animal on the island. The distinction of the rabbit as a species, is taken 
from peculiarities in the fur, from the shape of the head, and from the shortness of 
the ears. I may here observe that the difference between the Irish and English hare 
rests upon nearly similar characters, only more strongly marked. 

6 1 have reason, however, to suspect that there is a field-mouse. The common 
European rat and mouse have roamed far from the habitations of the settlers. The 
common hog has also run wild on one islet; all are of a black colour: the boars 
are very fierce, and have great tusks. 

7 The "culpeu" is the Canis Magellanicus brought home by Captain King from 
the Strait of Magellan. It is common in Chile. 


the same. They have been observed to enter a tent, and actually pull 
some meat from beneath the head of a sleeping seaman. The 
Gauchos also have frequently in the evening killed them, by holding 
out a piece of meat in one hand, and in the other a knife ready to 
stick them. As far as I am aware, there is no other instance in any 
part of the world, of so small a mass of broken land, distant from 
a continent, possessing so large an aboriginal quadruped peculiar to 
itself. Their numbers have rapidly decreased; they are already ban- 
ished from that half of the island which lies to the eastward of the 
neck of land between St. Salvador Bay and Berkeley Sound. Within 
a very few years after these islands shall have become regularly set- 
tled, in all probability this fox will be classed with the dodo, as an 
animal which has perished from the face of the earth. 

At night (lyth) we slept on the neck of land at the head of Choi- 
seul Sound, which forms the south-west peninsula. The valley was 
pretty well sheltered from the cold wind; but there was very little 
brushwood for fuel. The Gauchos, however, soon found what, to 
my great surprise, made nearly as hot a fire as coals; this was the 
skeleton of a ibullock lately killed, from which the flesh had been 
picked by the carrion-hawks. They told me that in winter they often 
killed a beast, cleaned the flesh from the bones with their knives, 
and then with these same bones roasted the meat for their suppers. 

1 8th. It rained during nearly the whole day. At night we man- 
aged, however, with our saddle-cloths to keep ourselves pretty well 
dry and warm; but the ground on which we slept was on each occa- 
sion nearly in the state of a bog, and there was not a dry spot to sit 
down on after our day's ride. I have in another part stated how 
singular it is that there should be absolutely no trees on these islands, 
although Tierra del Fuego is covered by one large forest. The largest 
bush in the island (belonging to the family of Composite) is 
scarcely so tall as our gorse. The best fuel is afforded by a green 
little bush about the size of common heath, which has the useful 
property of burning while fresh and green. It was very surprising to 
see the Gauchos, in the midst of rain and everything soaking wet, 
with nothing more than a tindernbox and a piece of rag, immediately 
make a fire. They sought beneath the tufts of grass and bushes for 
a few dry twigs, and these they rubbed into fibres; then surround- 


ing them with coarser twigs, something like a bird's nest, they put 
the rag with its spark of fire in the middle and covered it up. The 
nest being then held up to the wind, by degrees it smoked more and 
more, and at last burst out in flames. I do not think any other 
method would have had a chance of succeeding with such damp 

jgth^ Each morning, from not having ridden for some time 
previously, I was very stiff. I was surprised to hear the Gauchos, 
who have from infancy almost lived on horseback, say that, under 
similar circumstances, they always suffer. St. Jago told me, that 
having been confined for three months by illness, he went out hunt- 
ing wild cattle, and in consequence, for the next two days, his thighs 
were so stiff that he was obliged to lie in bed. This shows that the 
Gauchos, although they do not appear to do so, yet really must exert 
much muscular effort in riding. The hunting wild cattle, in a coun- 
try so difficult to pass as this is on account of the swampy ground, 
must be very hard work. The Gauchos say they often piass at full 
speed over ground which would be impassable at a slower pace; in 
the same manner as a man is able to skate over thin ice. When hunt- 
ing, the party endeavours to get as close as possible to the herd 
without being discovered. Each man carries four or five pair of 
the bolas; these he throws one after the other at as many cattle, 
which, when once entangled, are left for some days, till they become 
a little exhausted by hunger and struggling. They are then let free 
and driven towards a small herd of tame animals, which have been 
brought to the spot on purpose. From their previous treatment, 
being too much terrified to leave the herd, they are easily driven, if 
their strength last out, to the settlement. 

The weather continued so very bad that we determined to make 
a push, and try to reach the vessel before night. From the quantity 
of rain which had fallen, the surface of the whole country was 
swampy. I suppose my horse fell at least a dozen times, and some- 
times the whole six horses were floundering in the mud together. 
All the little streams are bordered by soft peat, which makes it 
very difficult for the horses to leap them without falling. To com- 
plete our discomforts we were obliged to cross the head of a creek 
of the sea, in which the water was as high as our horses' backs; 


and the little waves, owing to the violence of the wind, broke over 
us, and made us very wet and cold. Even the iron-framed Gauchos 
professed themselves glad when they reached the settlement, after 
our little excursion. 

The geological structure of these islands is in most respects simple. 
The lower country consists of clay-slate and sandstone, containing 
fossils, very closely related to, but not identical with, those found in 
the Silurian formations of Europe; the hills are formed of white 
granular quartz rock. The strata of the latter are frequently arched 
with perfect symmetry, and the appearance of some of the masses 
is in consequence most singular. Pernety 8 has devoted several pages 
to the description of a Hill of Ruins, the successive strata of which he 
has justly compared to the seats of an amphitheatre. The quartz 
rock must have been quite pasty when it underwent such remark- 
able flexures without being shattered into fragments. As the 
quartz insensibly passes into the sandstone, it seems probable 
that the former owes its origin to the sandstone having been heated 
to such a degree that it became viscid, and upon cooling crystallized. 
While in the soft state it must have been pushed up through the 
overlying beds. 

In many parts of the island the bottoms of the valleys are covered 
in an extraordinary manner by myriads of great loose angular frag- 
ments of the quartz rock, forming "streams of stones." These have 
been mentioned with surprise by every voyager since the time of 
Pernety. The blocks are not waterworn, their angles being only a 
little blunted; they vary in size from one or two feet in diameter to 
ten, or even more than twenty times as much. They are not thrown 
together into irregular piles, but are spread out into level sheets or 
great streams. It is not possible to ascertain their thickness, but the 
water of small streamlets can be heard trickling through the stones 
many feet below the surface. The actual depth is probably great, 
because the crevices between the lower fragments must long ago 
have been filled up with sand. The width of these sheets of stones 
varies from a few hundred feet to a mile; but the peaty soil daily 
encroaches on the borders, and even forms islets wherever a few 

8 Pernety, Voyage aux Isles Malouines, p. 526. 


fragments happen to lie close together. In a valley south of Berkeley 
Sound, which some of our party called the "great valley of frag- 
ments," it was necessary to cross an uninterrupted band half a mile 
wide, by jumping from one pointed stone to another. So large were 
the fragments, that being overtaken by a shower of rain, I readily 
found shelter beneath one of them. 

Their little inclination is the most remarkable circumstance in 
these "streams of stones." On the hill-sides I have seen them sloping 
at an angle of ten degrees with the horizon; but in some of the level, 
broad-bottomed valleys, the inclination is only just sufficient to be 
clearly perceived. On so rugged a surface there was no means of 
measuring the angle; but to give a common illustration, I may say 
that the slope would not have checked the speed of an English mail- 
coach. In some places, a continuous stream of these fragments 
followed up the course of a valley, and even extended to the very 
crest of the hill. On these crests huge masses, exceeding in dimen- 
sions any small building, seemed to stand arrested in their headlong 
course: there, also, the curved strata of the archways lay piled on 
each other, like the ruins of some vast and ancient cathedral. In 
endeavouring to describe these scenes of violence one is tempted to 
pass from one simile to another. We may imagine that streams of 
white lava had flowed from many parts of the mountains into the 
lower country, and that when solidified they had been rent by some 
enormous convulsion into myriads of fragments. The expression 
"streams of stones," which immediately occurred to every one, con- 
veys the same idea. These scenes are on the spot rendered more 
striking by the contrast of the low rounded forms of the neighbour- 
ing hills. 

I was interested by finding on the highest peak of one range (about 
700 feet above the sea) a great arched fragment, lying on its convex 
side, or back downwards. Must we believe that it was fairly pitched 
up in the air, and thus turned? Or, with more probability, that there 
existed formerly a part of the same range more elevated than the 
point on which this monument of a great convulsion of nature now 
lies? As the fragments in the valleys are neither rounded nor the 
crevices filled up with sand, we must infer that the period of violence 
was subsequent to the land having been raised above the waters of 


the sea. In a transverse section within these valleys, the bottom is 
nearly level, or rises but very little towards either side. Hence the 
fragments appear to have travelled from the head of the valley; but in 
reality it seems more probable that they have been hurled down 
from the nearest slopes; and that since, by a vibratory movement 
of overwhelming force, 9 the fragments have been levelled into one 
continuous sheet. If during the earthquake 10 which in 1835 over- 
threw Concepcion, in Chile, it was thought wonderful that small 
bodies should have been pitched a few inches from the ground, what 
must we say to a movement which has caused fragments many tons 
in weight, to move onwards like so much sand on a vibrating board, 
and find their level ? I have seen, in the Cordillera of the Andes, the 
evident marks where stupendous mountains have been broken into 
pieces like so much thin crust, and the strata thrown on their vertical 
edges; but never did any scene, like these "streams of stones," so 
forcibly convey to my mind the idea of a convulsion, of which in 
historical records we might in vain seek for any counterpart: yet 
the progress of knowledge will probably some day give a simple 
explanation of this phenomenon, as it already has of the so long- 
thought inexplicable transportal of the erratic boulders, which are 
strewed over the plains of Europe. 

I have little to remark on the zoology of these islands. I have be- 
fore described the carrion-vulture of Polyborus. There are some 
other hawks, owls, and a few small landbirds. The water-fowl are 
particularly numerous, and they must formerly, from the accounts 
of the old navigators, have been much more so. One day I observed 
a cormorant playing with a fish which it had caught. Eight times 
successively the bird let its prey go, then dived after it, and although 
in deep water, brought it each time to the surface. In the Zoological 
Gardens I have seen the otter treat a fish in the same manner, much 
as a cat does a mouse: I do not know of any other instance where 

9 "Nous n'avons pas et moins saisis d'tonnement a la vue de 1'innombrable 
quantite de pierres de toutes grandeurs, bouleversees les unes sur les autres, et 
cependant range"es, comme si elles avoient e"te amoncelees negligemment pour remplir 
des ravins. On ne se lassoit pas d'admirer les effets prodigieux de la nature." 
Pernety, p. 526. 

10 An inhabitant of Mendoza, and hence well capable of judging, assured me that, 
during the several years he had resided on these islands, he had never felt the 
slightest shock of an earthquake. 


dame Nature appears so wilfully cruel. Another day, having placed 
myself between a penguin (Aptenodytes demersa) and the water, 
I was much amused by watching its habits. It was a brave bird; and 
till reaching the sea, it regularly fought and drove me backwards. 
Nothing less than heavy blows would have stopped him; every inch 
he gained he firmly kept, standing close before me erect and deter- 
mined. When thus opposed he continually rolled his head from 
side to side, in a very odd manner, as if the power of distinct vision 
lay only in the anterior and basal part of each eye. This bird is 
commonly called the jackass penguin, from its habit, while on shore, 
of throwing its head backwards, and making a loud strange noise, 
very like the braying of an ass; but while at sea, and undisturbed, 
its note is very deep and solemn, and is often heard in the night- 
time. In diving, its little wings are used as fins; but on the land, as 
front legs. When crawling, it may be said on four legs, through the 
tussocks or on the side of a grassy cliff, it moves so very quickly that 
it might easily be mistaken for a quadruped. When at sea and fish- 
ing, it comes to the surface for the purpose of breathing with such 
a spring, and dives again so instantaneously, that I defy any one at 
first sight to be sure that it was not a fish leaping for sport. 

Two kinds of geese frequent the Falklands. The upland species 
(Anas Magellanica) is common, in pairs and in small flocks, through- 
out the island. They do not migrate, but build on the small outlying 
islets. This is supposed to be from fear of the foxes: and it is per- 
haps from the same cause that these birds, though very tame by day, 
are shy and wild in the dusk of the evening. They live entirely on 
vegetable matter. 

The rock-goose, so called from living exclusively on the sea-beach 
(Anas antarctica), is common both here and on the west coast of 
America, as far north as Chile. In the deep and retired channels of 
Tierra del Fuego, the snow-white gander, invariably accompanied 
by his darker consort, and standing close by each other on some 
distant rocky point, is a common feature in the landscape. 

In these islands a great loggerheaded duck or goose (Anas brachyp- 
tera), which sometimes weighs twentyntwo pounds, is very abundant. 
These birds were in former days called, from their extraordinary 
manner of paddling and splashing upon the water, race-horses; but 


now they are named, much more appropriately, steamers. Their 
wings are too small and weak to allow of flight, but by their aid, 
pardy swimming and partly flapping the surface of the water, they 
move very quickly. The manner is something like that by which 
the common house-duck escapes when pursued by a dog; but I am 
nearly sure that the steamer moves its wings alternately, instead of 
both together, as in other birds. These clumsy, loggerheaded ducks 
make such a noise and splashing, that the effect is exceedingly 

Thus we find in South America three birds which use their wings 
for other purposes besides flight; the penguins as fins, the steamer as 
paddles, and the ostrich as sails: and the Apteryz of New Zealand, as 
well as its gigantic extinct prototype the Deinornis, possess only rudi- 
mentary representatives of wings. The steamer is able to dive only 
to a very short distance. It feeds entirely on shell-fish from the kelp 
and tidal rocks: hence the beak and head, for the purpose of breaking 
them, are surprisingly heavy and strong: the head is so strong that 
I have scarcely been able to fracture it with my geological hammer; 
and all our sportsmen soon discovered how tenacious these birds 
were of life. When in the evening pluming themselves in a flock, 
they make the same odd mixture of sounds which bull-frogs do 
within the tropics. 

In Tierra del Fuego, as well as in the Falkland Islands, I made 
many observations on the lower marine animals, 11 but they are of 
little general interest. I will mention only one class of facts, relating 
to certain zoophytes in the more highly organized division of that 
class. Several genera (Flustra, Eschara, Cellaria, Crisia, and others) 
agree in having singular moveable organs (like those of Flustra 

11 1 was surprised to find, on counting the eggs of a large white Doris (this 
sea-slug was three and a half inches long), how extraordinarily numerous they 
were. From two to five eggs (each three-thousandths of an inch in diameter) were 
contained in a spherical little case. These were arranged two deep in transverse rows 
forming a ribbon. The ribbon adhered by its edge to the rock in an oval spire. 
One which I found, measured nearly twenty inches in length and half in breadth. 
By counting how many balls were contained in a tenth of an inch in the row, and 
how many rows in an equal length of the ribbon, on the most moderate computation 
there were six hundred thousand eggs. Yet this Doris was certainly not very common; 
although I was often searching under the stones, I saw only seven individuals. No 
fallacy is more common with naturalists, than that the numbers of an individual 
species depend on its powers of propagation. 


avicularia, found in the European seas) attached to their cells. The 
organ, in the greater number of cases, very closely resembles the 
head of a vulture; but the lower mandible can be opened much 
wider than in a real bird's beak. The head itself possesses consider- 
able powers of movement, by means of a short neck. In one zoophyte 
the head itself was fixed, but the lower jaw free: in another it was 
replaced by a triangular hood, with a beautifully-fitted trap-door, 
which evidently answered to the lower mandible. In the greater 
number of species, each cell was provided with one head, but in 
others each cell had two. 

The young cells at the end of the branches of these corallines 
contain quite immature polypi, yet the vulture-heads attached to 
them, though small, are in every respect perfect. When the polypus 
was removed by a needle from any of the cells, these organs did not 
appear in the least affected. When one of the vulture-like heads was 
cut off from the cell, the lower mandible retained its power of open- 
ing and closing. Perhaps the most singular part of their structure 
is, that when there were more than two rows of cells on a branch, 
the central cells were furnished with these appendages, of only one- 
fourth the size of the outside ones. Their movements varied accord- 
ing to the species; but in some I never saw the least motion; while 
others, with the lower mandible generally wide open, oscillated back- 
wards and forwards at the rate of about five seconds each turn; others 
moved rapidly and by starts. When touched with a needle, the beak 
generally seized the point so firmly, that the whole branch might 
be shaken. 

These bodies have no relation whatever with the production of 
the eggs or gemmules, as they are formed before the young polypi 
appear in the cell$4t the end of the growing branches; as they move 
independently of the polypi, and do not appear to be in any way con- 
nected with them; and as they differ in size on the outer and inner 
rows of cells, I have little doubt, that in their functions, they are 
related rather to the horny axis of the branches than to the polypi 
in the cells. The fleshy appendage at the lower extremity of the sea- 
pen (described at Bahia Blanca) also forms part of the zoophyte, 
as a whole, in the same manner as the roots of a tree form part of 
the whole tree, and not of the individual leaf or flower-buds. 


In another elegant little coralline (Crisia?), each cell was furnished 
with a long-toothed bristle, which had the power of moving quickly. 
Each of these bristles and each of the vulture-like heads generally 
moved quite independently of the others, but sometimes all on both 
sides of a branch, sometimes only those on one side, moved together 
coinstantaneously; sometimes each moved in regular order one after 
another. In these actions we apparently behold as perfect a trans- 
mission of will in the zoophyte, though composed of thousands of 
distinct polypi, as in any single animal. The case, indeed, is not 
different from that of the sea-pens, which, when touched, drew 
themselves into the sand on the coast of Bahia Blanca. I will state 
one other instance of uniform action, though of a very different 
nature, in a zoophyte closely allied to Clytia, and therefore very 
simply organized. Having kept a large tuft of it in a basin of salt- 
water, when it was dark I found that as often as I rubbed any part 
of a branch, the whole became strongly phosphorescent with a green 
light: I do not think I ever saw any object more beautifully so. But 
the remarkable circumstance was, that the flashes of light always 
proceeded up the branches, from the base towards the extremities. 

The examination of these compound animals was always very in- 
teresting to me. What can be more remarkable than to see a plant- 
like body producing an egg, capable of swimming about and of 
choosing a proper place to adhere to, which then sprouts into 
branches, each crowded with innumerable distinct animals, often 
of complicated organizations? The branches, moreover, as we have 
just seen, sometimes possess organs capable of movement and inde- 
pendent of the polypi. Surprising as this union of separate individ- 
uals in a common stock must always appear, every tree displays the 
same fact, for buds must be considered as individual plants. It is, 
however, natural to consider a polypus, furnished with a mouth, 
intestines, and other organs, as a distinct individual, whereas the 
individuality of a leaf -bud is not easily realised; so that the union of 
separate individuals in a common body is more striking in a coral- 
line than in a tree. Our conception of a compound animal, where 
in some respects the individuality of each is not completed, may be 
aided, by reflecting on the production of two distinct creatures by 
bisecting a single one with a knife, or where Nature herself per- 


forms the task of bisection. We may consider the polypi in a zoo- 
phyte, or the buds in a tree, as cases where the division of the 
individual has not been completely effected. Certainly in the case 
of trees, and judging from analogy in that of corallines, the indi- 
viduals propagated by buds seem more intimately related to each 
other, than eggs or seeds are to their parents. It seems now pretty 
well established that plants propagated by buds all partake of a com- 
mon duration of life; and it is familiar to every one, what singular 
and numerous peculiarities are transmitted with certainty, by buds, 
layers, and grafts, which by seminal propagation never or only 
casually reappear. 



Tierra del Fuego, first arrival Good Success Bay An Account of the 
Fuegians on board Interview with the Savages Scenery of the For- 
ests Cape Horn Wigwam Cove Miserable Condition of the Savages 
Famines Cannibals Matricide Religious Feelings Great Gale 
Beagle Channel Ponsonby Sound Build Wigwams and settle the 
Fuegians Bifurcation of the Beagle Channel Glaciers Return to 
the Ship Second Visit in the Ship to the Settlement Equality of 
Condition amongst the Natives. 

t ^^ECEMBER ijth, 1832. Having now finished with Pata- 
I m gonia and the Falkland Islands, I will describe our first 
M^_*J arrival in Tierra del Fuego. A little after noon we doubled 
Cape St. Diego, and entered the famous strait of Le Maire. We kept 
close to the Fuegian shore, but the outline of the rugged, inhospitable 
Statenland was visible amidst the clouds. In the afternoon we 
anchored in the Bay of Good Success. While entering we were 
saluted in a manner becoming the inhabitants of this savage land. 
A group of Fuegians partly concealed by the entangled forest, were 
perched on a wild point overhanging the sea; and as we passed by, 
they sprang up and waving their tattered cloaks sent forth a loud 
and sonorous shout. The savages followed the ship, and just before 
dark we saw their fire, and again heard their wild cry. The harbour 
consists of a fine piece of water half surrounded by low rounded 
mountains of clay-slate, which are covered to the water's edge by 
one dense gloomy forest. A single glance at the landscape was suf- 
ficient to show me how widely different it was from anything I had 
ever beheld. At night it blew a gale of wind, and heavy squalls from 
the mountains swept past us. It would have been a bad time out at 
sea, and we, as well as others, may call this Good Success Bay. 

In the morning the Captain sent a party to communicate with the 
Fuegians. When we came within hail, one of the four natives who 
were present advanced to receive us, and began to shout most vehe- 



mently, wishing to direct us where to land. When we were on shore 
the party looked rather alarmed, but continued talking and making 
gestures with great rapidity. It was without exception the most 
curious and interesting spectacle I ever beheld: I could not have 
believed how wide was the difference between savage and civilized 
man: it is greater than between a wild and domesticated animal, 
inasmuch as in man there is a greater power of improvement. The 
chief spokesman was old, and appeared to be the head of the family ; 
the three others were powerful young men, about six feet high. The 
women and children had been sent away. These Fuegians are a very 
different race from the stunted, miserable wretches farther west- 
ward; and they seem closely allied to the famous Patagonians of 
the Strait of Magellan. Their only garment consists of a mantle 
made of guanaco skin, with the wool outside: this they wear just 
thrown over their shoulders, leaving their persons as often exposed 
as covered. Their skin is of a dirty coppery-red colour. 

The old man had a fillet of white feathers tied round his head, 
which partly confined his black, coarse, and entangled hair. His 
face was crossed by two broad transverse bars; one, painted bright 
red, reached from ear to ear and included the upper lip; the other, 
white like chalk, extended above and parallel to the first, so that 
even his eyelids were thus coloured. The other two men were orna- 
mented by streaks of black powder, made of charcoal. The party 
altogether closely resembled the devils which come on the stage in 
plays like Der Freischutz. 

Their very attitudes were abject, and the expression of their 
countenances distrustful, surprised, and startled. After we had pre- 
sented them with some scarlet cloth, which they immediately tied 
round their necks, they became good friends. This was shown by 
the old man patting our breasts, and making a chuckling kind of 
noise, as people do when feeding chickens. I walked with the old 
man, and this demonstration of friendship was repeated several 
times; it was concluded by three hard slaps, which were given me 
on the breast and back at the same time. He then bared his bosom 
for me to return the compliment, which being done, he seemed 
highly pleased. The language of these people, according to our 
notions, scarcely deserves to be called articulate. Captain Cook has 


compared it to a man clearing his throat, but certainly no European 
ever cleared his throat with so many hoarse, guttural, and clicking 

They are excellent mimics: as often as we coughed or yawned, or 
made any odd motion, they immediately imitated us. Some of our 
party began to squint and look awry; but one of the young Fuegians 
(whose whole face was painted black, excepting a white band across 
his eyes) succeeded in making far more hideous grimaces. They 
could repeat with perfect correctness each word in any sentence we 
addressed them, and they remembered such words for some time. 
Yet we Europeans all know how difficult it is to distinguish apart 
the sounds in a foreign language. Which of us, for instance, could 
follow an American Indian through a sentence of more than three 
words? All savages appear to possess, to an uncommon degree, this 
power of mimicry. I was told, almost in the same words, of the same 
ludicrous habit among the Caff res; the Australians, likewise, have 
long been notorious for being able to imitate and describe the gait 
of any man, so that he may be recognized. How can this faculty be 
explained? is it a consequence of the more practised habits of per- 
ception and keener senses, common to all men in a savage state, as 
compared with those long civilized ? 

When a song was struck up by our party, I thought the Fuegians 
would have fallen down with astonishment. With equal surprise 
they viewed our dancing; but one of the young men, when asked, 
had no objection to a little waltzing. Little accustomed to Europeans 
as they appeared to be, yet they knew and dreaded our fire-arms; 
nothing would tempt them to take a gun in their hands. They 
begged for knives, calling them by the Spanish word "cuchilla." 
They explained also what they wanted, by acting as if they had a 
piece of blubber in their mouth, and then pretending to cut instead 
of tear it. 

I have not as yet noticed the Fuegians whom we had on board. 
During the former voyage of the Adventure and Beagle in 1826 to 
1830, Captain Fitz Roy seized on a party of natives, as hostages for 
the loss of a boat, which had been stolen, to the great jeopardy of a 
party employed on the survey; and some of these natives, as well as 
a child whom he bought for a pearl-button, he took with him to 


England, determining to educate them and instruct them in religion 
at his own expense. To settle these natives in their own country, 
was one chief inducement to Captain Fitz Roy to undertake our 
present voyage; and before the Admiralty had resolved to send out 
this expedition, Captain Fitz Roy had generously chartered a vessel, 
and would himself have taken them back. The natives were accom- 
panied by a missionary, R. Matthews; of whom and of the natives, 
Captain Fitz Roy had published a full and excellent account. Two 
men, one of whom died in England of the small-pox, a boy and a 
little girl, were originally taken; and we had now on board, York 
Minster, Jemmy Button (whose name expresses his purchase- 
money), and Fuegia Basket. York Minster was a full-grown, short, 
thick, powerful man: his disposition was reserved, taciturn, morose, 
and when excited violently passionate; his affections were very 
strong towards a few friends on board; his intellect good. Jemmy 
Button was a universal favourite, but likewise passionate; the expres- 
sion of his face at once showed his nice disposition. He was merry 
and often laughed, and was remarkably sympathetic with any one in 
pain : when the water was rough, I was often a little sea-sick, and he 
used to come to me and say in a plaintive voice, "Poor, poor fellow!" 
but the notion, after his aquatic life, of a man being sea-sick, was too 
ludicrous, and he was generally obliged to turn on one side to hide a 
smile or laugh, and then he would repeat his "Poor, poor fellow!" 
He was of a patriotic disposition; and he liked to praise his own 
tribe and country, in which he truly said there were "plenty of 
trees," and he abused all the other tribes: he stoutly declared that 
there was no Devil in his land. Jemmy was short, thick, and fat, but 
vain of his personal appearance; he used always to wear gloves, his 
hair was neatly cut, and he was distressed if his well-polished shoes 
were dirtied. He was fond of admiring himself in a looking glass; 
and a merry-faced little Indian boy from the Rio Negro, whom we 
had for some months on board, soon perceived this, and used to 
mock him: Jemmy, who was always rather jealous of the attention 
paid to this little boy, did not at all like this, and used to say, with 
rather a contemptuous twist of his head, "Too much skylark." It 
seems yet wonderful to me, when I think over all his many good 
qualities, that he should have been of the same race, and doubtless 


partaken of the same character, with the miserable, degraded savages 
whom we first met here. Lastly, Fuegia Basket was a nice, modest, 
reserved young girl, with a rather pleasing but sometimes sullen 
expression, and very quick in learning anything, especially languages. 
This she showed in picking up some Portuguese and Spanish, when 
left on shore for only a short time at Rio de Janeiro and Monte 
Video, and in her knowledge of English. York Minster was very 
jealous of any attention paid to her; for it was clear he determined 
to marry her as soon as they were settled on shore. 

Although all three could both speak and understand a good deal 
of English, it was singularly difficult to obtain much information 
from them, concerning the habits of their countrymen; this was 
partly owing to their apparent difficulty in understanding the 
simplest alternative. Every one accustomed to very young children, 
knows how seldom one can get an answer even to so simple a 
question as whether a thing is black or white; the idea of black or 
white seems alternately to fill their minds. So it was with these 
Fuegians, and hence it was generally impossible to find out, by 
cross-questioning, whether one had rightly understood anything 
which they had asserted. Their sight was remarkably acute; it is 
well known that sailors, from long practice, can make out a distant 
object much better than a landsman; but both York and Jemmy 
were much superior to any sailor on board: several times they have 
declared what some distant object has been, and though doubted by 
every one, they have proved right, when it has been examined 
through a telescope. They were quite conscious of this power; and 
Jemmy, when he had any little quarrel with the officer on watch, 
would say, "Me see ship, me no tell." 

It was interesting to watch the conduct of the savages, when we 
landed, towards Jemmy Button: they immediately perceived the 
difference between him and ourselves, and held much conversation 
one with another on the subject. The old man addressed a long 
harangue to Jemmy, which it seems was to invite him to stay with 
them. But Jemmy understood very little of their language, and was, 
moreover, thoroughly ashamed of his countrymen. When York 
Minster afterwards came on shore, they noticed him in the same 
way, and told him he ought to shave; yet he had not twenty dwarf 


hairs on his face, whilst we all wore our untrimmed beards. They 
examined the colour of his skin, and compared it with ours. One of 
our arms being bared, they expressed the liveliest surprise and 
admiration at its whiteness, just in the same way in which I have 
seen the ourang-outang do at the Zoological Gardens. We thought 
that they mistook two or three of the officers, who were rather 
shorter and fairer, though adorned with large beards, for the ladies 
of our party. The tallest amongst the Fuegians was evidently much 
pleased at his height being noticed. When placed back to back with 
the tallest of the boat's crew, he tried his best to edge on higher 
ground, and to stand on tiptoe. He opened his mouth to show his 
teeth, and turned his face for a side view; and all this was done 
with such alacrity, that I dare say he thought himself the hand- 
somest man in Tierra del Fuego. After our first feeling of grave 
astonishment was over, nothing could be more ludicrous than the 
odd mixture of surprise and imitation which these savages every 
moment exhibited. 

The next day I attempted to penetrate some way into the country. 
Tierra del Fuego may be described as a mountainous land, partly 
submerged in the sea, so that deep inlets and bays occupy the place 
where valleys should exist. The mountain sides, except on the 
exposed western coast, are covered from the water's edge upwards 
by one great forest. The trees reach to an elevation of between 1000 
and 1500 feet, and are succeeded by a band of peat, with minute 
alpine plants; and this again is succeeded by the line of perpetual 
snow, which, according to Captain King, in the Strait of Magellan 
descends to between 3000 and 4000 feet. To find an acre of level 
land in any part of the country is most rare. I recollect only one little 
flat piece near Port Famine, and another of rather larger extent near 
Goeree Road. In both places, and everywhere else, the surface is 
covered by a thick bed of swampy peat. Even within the forest, 
the ground is concealed by a mass of slowly putrefying vegetable 
matter, which, from being soaked with water, yields to the foot. 

Finding it nearly hopeless to push my way through the wood, I 
followed the course of a mountain torrent. At first, from the water- 
falls and number of dead trees, I could hardly crawl along; but the 


bed of the stream soon became a little more open, from the floods 
having swept the sides. I continued slowly to advance for an hour 
along the broken and rocky banks, and was amply repaid by the 
grandeur of the scene. The gloomy depth of the ravine well accorded 
with the universal signs of violence. On every side were lying 
irregular masses of rock and torn-up trees; other trees, though still 
erect, were decayed to the heart and ready to fall. The entangled 
mass of the thriving and the fallen reminded me of the forests within 
the tropics yet there was a difference: for in these still solitudes, 
Death, instead of Life, seemed the predominant spirit. I followed 
the watercourse till I came to a spot where a great slip had cleared 
a straight space down the mountain side. By this road I ascended 
to a considerable elevation, and obtained a good view of the sur- 
rounding woods. The trees all belong to one kind, the Fagus 
betuloides; for the number of the other species of Fagus and of the 
Winter's Bark, is quite inconsiderable. This beech keeps its leaves 
throughout the year; but its foliage is of a peculiar brownish-green 
colour, with a tinge of yellow. As the whole landscape is thus 
coloured, it has a sombre, dull appearance; nor is it often enlivened 
by the rays of the sun. 

December 2oth. One side of the harbour is formed by a hill about 
1500 feet high, which Captain Fitz Roy has called after Sir J. Banks, 
in commemoration of his disastrous excursion, which proved fatal to 
two men of his party, and nearly so to Dr. Solander. The snow- 
storm, which was the cause of their misfortune, happened in the 
middle of January, corresponding to our July, and in the latitude 
of Durham! I was anxious to reach the summit of this mountain 
to collect alpine plants; for flowers of any kind in the lower parts 
are few in number. We followed the same watercourse as on the 
previous day, till it dwindled away, and we were then compelled to 
crawl blindly among the trees. These, from the effects of the eleva- 
tion and of the impetuous winds, were low, thick and crooked. At 
length we reached that which from a distance appeared like a carpet 
of fine green turf, but which, to our vexation, turned out to be a 
compact mass of little beech-trees about four or five feet high. They 
were as thick together as box in the border of a garden, and we were 
obliged to struggle over the flat but treacherous surface. After a 


little more trouble we gained the peat, and then the bare slate rock. 

A ridge connected this hill with another, distant some miles, and 
more lofty, so that patches of snow were lying on it. As the day 
was not far advanced, I determined to walk there and collect plants 
along the road. It would have been very hard work, had it not been 
for a well-beaten and straight path made by the guanacos; for these 
animals, like sheep, always follow the same line. When we reached 
the hill we found it the highest in the immediate neighbourhood, 
and the waters flowed to the sea in opposite directions. We obtained 
a wide view over the surrounding country: to the north a swampy 
moorland extended, but to the south we had a scene of savage mag- 
nificence, well becoming Tierra del Fuego. There was a degree of 
mysterious grandeur in mountain behind mountain, with the deep 
intervening valleys, all covered by one thick, dusky mass of forest. 
The atmosphere, likewise, in this climate, where gale succeeds gale, 
with rain, hail, and sleet, seems blacker than anywhere else. In the 
Strait of Magellan looking due southward from Port Famine, the 
distant channels between the mountains appeared from their gloomi- 
ness to lead beyond the confines of this world. 

December 21 st. The Beagle got under way: and on the succeed- 
ing day, favoured to an uncommon degree by a fine easterly breeze, 
we closed in with the Barnevelts, and running past Cape Deceit with 
its stony peaks, about three o'clock doubled the weather-beaten Cape 
Horn. The evening was calm and bright, and we enjoyed a fine 
view of the surrounding isles. Cape Horn, however, demanded his 
tribute, and before night sent us a gale of wind directly in our 
teeth. We stood out to sea, and on the second day again made the 
land, when we saw on our weather-bow this notorious promontory 
in its proper form veiled in a mist, and its dim outline surrounded 
by a storm of wind and water. Great black clouds were rolling 
across the heavens, and squalls of rain, with hail, swept by us with 
such extreme violence, that the Captain determined to run into 
Wigwam Cove. This is a snug little harbour, not far from Cape 
Horn; and here, at Christmas-eve, we anchored in smooth water. 
The only thing which reminded us of the gale outside, was every 
now and then a puff from the mountains, which made the ship 
surge at her anchors. 


December 2$th. Close by the Cove, a pointed hill, called Kater's 
Peak, rises to the height of 1700 feet. The surrounding islands all 
consist of conical masses of greenstone, associated sometimes with 
less regular hills of baked and altered clay-slate. This part of Tierra 
del Fuego may be considered as the extremity of the submerged 
chain of mountains already alluded to. The cove takes its name of 
"Wigwam" from some of the Fuegian habitations; but every bay in 
the neighbourhood might be so called with equal propriety. The 
inhabitants, living chiefly upon shell-fish, are obliged constantly to 
change their place of residence; but they return at intervals to the 
same spots, as is evident from the piles of old shells, which must 
often amount to many tons in weight. These heaps can be distin- 
guished at a long distance by the bright green colour of certain 
plants, which invariably grow on them. Among these may be 
enumerated the wild celery and scurvy grass, two very serviceable 
plants, the use of which has not been discovered by the natives. 

The Fuegian wigwam resembles, in size and dimensions, a hay- 
cock. It merely consists of a few broken branches stuck in the 
ground, and very imperfectly thatched on one side with a few tufts 
of grass and rushes. The whole cannot be the work of an hour, and 
it is only used for a few days. At Goeree Roads I saw a place where 
one of these naked men had slept, which absolutely offered no more 
cover than the form of a hare. The man was evidently living by 
himself, and York Minster said he was "very bad man," and that 
probably he had stolen something. On the west coast, however, the 
wigwams are rather better, for they are covered with seal-skins. We 
were detained here several days by the bad weather. The climate is 
certainly wretched: the summer solstice was now passed, yet every 
day snow fell on the hills, and in the valleys there was rain, accom- 
panied by sleet. The thermometer generally stood about 45, but in 
the night fell to 38 or 40. From the damp and boisterous state of 
the atmosphere, not cheered by a gleam of sunshine, one fancied the 
climate even worse than it really was. 

While going one day on shore near Wollaston Island, we pulled 
alongside a canoe with six Fuegians. These were the most abject 
and miserable creatures I anywhere beheld. On the east coast the 
natives, as we have seen, have guanaco cloaks, and on the west 


they possess seal-skins. Amongst these central tribes the men gen- 
erally have an otter-skin, or some small scrap about as large as a 
pocket-handkerchief, which is barely sufficient to cover their backs 
as low down as their loins. It is laced across the breast by strings, 
and according as the wind blows, it is shifted from side to side. But 
these Fuegians in the canoe were quite naked, and even one full- 
grown woman was absolutely so. It was raining heavily, and the 
fresh water, together with the spray, trickled down her body. In 
another harbour not far distant, a woman, who was suckling a 
recently-born child, came one day alongside the vessel, and remained 
there out of mere curiosity, whilst the sleet fell and thawed on her 
naked bosom, and on the skin of her naked baby! These poor 
wretches were stunted in their growth, their hideous faces bedaubed 
with white paint, their skins filthy and greasy, their hair entangled, 
their voices discordant, and their gestures violent. Viewing such 
men, one can hardly make one's self believe that they are fellow- 
creatures, and inhabitants of the same world. It is a common subject 
of conjecture what pleasure in life some of the lower animals can 
enjoy: how much more reasonably the same question may be asked 
with respect to these barbarians! At night, five or six human beings, 
naked and scarcely protected from the wind and rain of this tem- 
pestuous climate, sleep on the wet ground coiled up like animals. 
Whenever it is low water, winter or summer, night or day, they 
must rise to pick shell-fish from the rocks; and the women either 
dive to collect sea-eggs, or sit patiently in their canoes, and with a 
baited hair-line without any hook, jerk out little fish. If a seal is 
killed, or the floating carcass of a putrid whale is discovered, it is a 
feast; and such miserable food is assisted by a few tasteless berries 
and fungi. 

They often suffer from famine: I heard Mr. Low, a sealing- 
master intimately acquainted with the natives of this country, give 
a curious account of the state of a party of one hundred and fifty 
natives on the west coast, who were very thin and in great distress. 
A succession of gales prevented the women from getting shell-fish 
on the rocks, and they could not go out in their canoes to catch seal. 
A small party of these men one morning set out, and the other 
Indians explained to him, that they were going a four days' journey 


for food: on their return, Low went to meet them, and he found 
them excessively tired, each man carrying a great square piece of 
putrid whale's-blubber with a hole in the middle, through which 
they put their heads, like the Gauchos do through their ponchos or 
cloaks. As soon as the blubber was brought into a wigwam, an old 
man cut off thin slices, and muttering over them, broiled them for 
a minute, and distributed them to the famished party, who during 
this time preserved a profound silence. Mr. Low believes that when- 
ever a whale is cast on shore, the natives bury large pieces of it in 
the sand, as a resource in time of famine; and a native boy, whom 
he had on board, once found a stock thus buried. The different 
tribes when at war are cannibals. From the concurrent, but quite 
independent evidence of the boy taken by Mr. Low, and of Jemmy 
Button, it is certainly true, that when pressed in winter by hunger, 
they kill and devour their old women before they kill their dogs: 
the boy, being asked by Mr. Low why they did this, answered, 
"Doggies catch otters, old women no." This boy described the 
manner in which they are killed by being held over smoke and thus 
choked; he imitated their screams as a joke, and described the parts 
of their bodies which are considered best to eat. Horrid as such a 
death by the hands of their friends and relatives must be, the fears 
of the old women, when hunger begins to press, are more painful 
to think of; we are told that they then often run away into the 
mountains, but that they are pursued by the men and brought back 
to the slaughter-house at their own firesides! 

Captain Fitz Roy could never ascertain that the Fuegians have 
any distinct belief in a future life. They sometimes bury their dead 
in caves, and sometimes in the mountain forests; we do not know 
what ceremonies they perform. Jemmy Button would not eat land- 
birds, because "eat dead men": they are unwilling even to mention 
their dead friends. We have no reason to believe that they perform 
any sort of religious worship; though perhaps the muttering of the 
old man before he distributed the putrid blubber to his famished 
party, may be of this nature. Each family or tribe has a wizard or 
conjuring doctor, whose office we could never clearly ascertain. 
Jemmy believed in dreams, though not, as I have said, in the devil: 
I do not think that our Fuegians were much more superstitious than 


some of the sailors; for an old quartermaster firmly believed that the 
successive heavy gales, which we encountered off Cape Horn, were 
caused by our having the Fuegians on board. The nearest approach 
to a religious feeling which I heard of, was shown by York Minster, 
who, when Mr. Bynoe shot some very young ducklings as specimens, 
declared in the most solemn manner, "Oh, Mr. Bynoe, much rain, 
snow, blow much." This was evidently a retributive punishment for 
wasting human food. In a wild and excited manner he also related, 
that his brother, one day whilst returning to pick up some dead birds 
which he had left on the coast, observed some feathers blown by the 
wind. His brother said (York imitating his manner), "What that?" 
and crawling onwards, he peeped over the cliff, and saw "wild man" 
picking his birds; he crawled a little nearer, and then hurled down a 
great stone and killed him. York declared for a long time afterwards 
storms raged, and much rain and snow fell. As far as we could make 
out, he seemed to consider the elements themselves as the avenging 
agents: it is evident in this case, how naturally, in a race a little 
more advanced in culture, the elements would become personified. 
What the "bad wild men" were, has always appeared to me most 
mysterious : from what York said, when we found the place like the 
form of a hare, where a single man had slept the night before, I 
should have thought that they were thieves who had been driven 
from their tribes; but other obscure speeches made me doubt this; 
I have sometimes imagined that the most probable explanation was 
that they were insane. 

The different tribes have no government or chief; yet each is sur- 
rounded by other hostile tribes, speaking different dialects, and 
separated from each other only by a deserted border or neutral terri- 
tory : the cause of their warfare appears to be the means of subsistence. 
Their country is a broken mass of wild rocks, lofty hills, and useless 
forests: and these are viewed through mists and endless storms. The 
habitable land is reduced to the stones on the beach; in search of 
food they are compelled unceasingly to wander from spot to spot, 
and so steep is the coast, that they can only move about in their 
wretched canoes. They cannot know the feeling of having a home, 
and still less that of domestic affection; for the husband is to the 
wife a brutal master to a laborious slave. Was a more horrid deed 


ever perpetrated, than that witnessed on the west coast by Byron, 
who saw a wretched mother pick up her bleeding dying infant-boy, 
whom her husband had mercilessly dashed on the stones for drop- 
ping a basket of sea-eggs. How little can the higher powers of the 
mind be brought into play : what is there for imagination to picture, 
for reason to compare, for judgment to decide upon? to knock a 
limpet from the rock does not require even cunning, that lowest 
power of the mind. Their skill in some respects may be compared 
to the instinct of animals; for it is not improved by experience: the 
canoe, their most ingenious work, poor as it is, has remained the 
same, as we know from Drake, for the last two hundred and fifty 

Whilst beholding these savages, one asks, whence have they come? 
What could have tempted, or what change compelled a tribe of men, 
to leave the fine regions of the north, to travel down the Cordillera 
or backbone of America, to invent and build canoes, which are not 
used by the tribes of Chile, Peru, and Brazil, and then to enter on 
one of the most inhospitable countries within the limits of the globe ? 
Although such reflections must at first seize on the mind, yet we may 
feel sure that they are partly erroneous. There is no reason to believe 
that the Fuegians decrease in number; therefore we must suppose 
that they enjoy a sufficient share of happiness, of whatever kind it 
may be, to render life worth having. Nature by making habit om- 
nipotent, and its effects hereditary, has fitted the Fuegian to the 
climate and the productions of his miserable country. 

After having been detained six days in Wigwam Cove by very bad 
weather, we put to sea on the 3Oth of December. Captain Fitz Roy 
wished to get westward to land York and Fuegia in their own coun- 
try. When at sea we had a constant succession of gales, and the 
current was against us: we drifted to 57 23' south. On the nth of 
January, 1833, by carrying a press of sail, we fetched within a few 
miles of the great rugged mountain of York Minster (so called by 
Captain Cook, and the origin of the name of the elder Fuegian), 
when a violent squall compelled us to shorten sail and stand out to 
sea. The surf was breaking fearfully on the coast, and the spray was 
carried over a cliff estimated to 200 feet in height. On the i2th the 


gale was very heavy, and we did not know exactly where we were : 
it was a most unpleasant sound to hear constantly repeated, "keep 
a good look-out to leeward." On the i3th the storm raged with its 
full fury: our horizon was narrowly limited by the sheets of spray 
borne by the wind. The sea looked ominous, like a dreary waving 
plain with patches of drifted snow : whilst the ship laboured heavily, 
the albatross glided with its expanded wings right up the wind. At 
noon a great sea broke over us, and filled one of the whale-boats, 
which was obliged to be instantly cut away. The poor Beagle trem- 
bled at the shock, and for a few minutes would not obey her helm; 
but soon, like a good ship that she was, she righted and came up to 
the wind again. Had another sea followed the first, our fate would 
have been decided soon, and for ever. We had now been twenty-four 
days trying in vain to get westward; the men were worn out with 
fatigue, and they had not had for many nights or days a dry thing 
to put on. Captain Fitz Roy gave up the attempt to get westward 
by the outside coast. In the evening we ran in behind False Cape 
Horn, and dropped our anchor in forty-seven fathoms, fire flashing 
from the windlass as the chain rushed round it. How delightful 
was that still night, after having been so long involved in the din 
of the warring elements! 

January i^th, 1833. The Beagle anchored in Goeree Roads. Cap- 
tain Fitz Roy having resolved to settle the Fuegians, according to 
their wishes, in Ponsonby Sound, four boats were equipped to carry 
them there through the Beagle Channel. This channel, which was 
discovered by Captain Fitz Roy during the last voyage, is a most 
remarkable feature in the geography of this, or indeed of any other 
country : it may be compared to the valley of Lochness in Scotland, 
with its chain of lakes and friths. It is about one hundred and twenty 
miles long, with an average breadth, not subject to any very great 
variation, of about two miles; and is throughout the greater part so 
perfectly straight, that the view, bounded on each side by a line of 
mountains, gradually becomes indistinct in the long distance. It 
crosses the southern part of Tierra del Fuego in an east and west 
line, and in the middle is joined at right angles on the south side by 
an irregular channel, which has been called Ponsonby Sound. This 
is the residence of Jemmy Button's tribe and family. 


igth. Three whale-boats and the yawl, with a party of twenty- 
eight, started under the command of Captain Fitz Roy. In the after- 
noon we entered the eastern mouth of the channel, and shortly 
afterwards found a snug little cove concealed by some surrounding 
islets. Here we pitched our tents and lighted our fires. Nothing 
could look more comfortable than this scene. The glassy water of 
the little harbour, with the branches of the trees hanging over the 
rocky beach, the boats at anchor, the tents supported by the crossed 
oars, and the smoke curling up the wooded valley, formed a picture 
of quiet retirement. The next day (20th) we smoothly glided on- 
wards in our little fleet, and came to a more inhabited district. Few 
if any of these natives could ever have seen a white man; certainly 
nothing could exceed their astonishment at the apparition of the four 
boats. Fires were lighted on every point (hence the name of Tierra 
del Fuego, or the land of fire), both to attract our attention and to 
spread far and wide the news. Some of the men ran for miles along 
the shore. I shall never forget how wild and savage one group 
appeared: suddenly four or five men came to the edge of an over- 
hanging cliff; they were absolutely naked, and their long hair 
streamed about their faces; they held rugged staffs in their hands, 
and, springing from the ground, they waved their arms round their 
heads, and sent forth the most hideous yells. 

At dinner-time we landed among a party of Fuegians. At first 
they were not inclined to be friendly; for until the Captain pulled 
in ahead of the other boats, they kept their slings in their hands. We 
soon, however, delighted them by trifling presents, such as tying red 
tape round their heads. They liked our biscuit: but one of the sav- 
ages touched with his finger some of the meat preserved in tin cases 
which I was eating, and feeling it soft and cold, showed as much 
disgust at it, as I should have done at putrid blubber. Jemmy was 
thoroughly ashamed of his countrymen, and declared his own tribe 
were quite different, in which he was wofully mistaken. It was as 
easy to please as it was difficult to satisfy these savages. Young and 
old, men and children, never ceased repeating the word "yammer- 
schooner," which means "give me." After pointing to almost every 
object, one after the other, even to the buttons on our coats, and 
saying their favourite word in as many intonations as possible, they 


would then use it in a neuter sense, and vacantly repeat "yammer- 
schooner." After yammerschoonering for any article very eagerly, 
they would by a simple artifice point to their young women or little 
children, as much as to say, "If you wUl not give it me, surely you 
will to such as these." 

At night we endeavoured in vain to find an uninhabited cove; and 
at last were obliged to bivouac not far from a party of natives. They 
were very inoffensive as long as they were few in numbers, but in the 
morning (2ist) being joined by others they showed symptoms of 
hostility, and we thought that we should have come to a skirmish. 
An European labours under great disadvantages when treating with 
savages like these, who have not the least idea of the power of fire- 
arms. In the very act of levelling his musket he appears to the 
savage far inferior to a man armed with a bow and arrow, a spear, 
or even a sling. Nor is it easy to teach them our superiority except 
by striking a fatal blow. Like wild beasts, they do not appear to 
compare numbers; for each individual, if attacked, instead of retir- 
ing, will endeavour to dash your brains out with a stone, as certainly 
as a tiger under similar circumstances would tear you. Captain Fitz 
Roy on one occasion being very anxious, from good reasons, to 
frighten away a small party, first flourished a cutlass near them, at 
which they only laughed; he then twice fired his pistol close to a 
native. The man both times looked astounded, and carefully but 
quickly rubbed his head; he then stared awhile, and gabbled to his 
companions, but he never seemed to think of running away. We 
can hardly put ourselves in the position of these savages, and under- 
stand their actions. In the case of this Fuegian, the possibility of 
such a sound as the report of a gun close to his ear could never have 
entered his mind. He perhaps literally did not for a second know 
whether it was a sound or a blow, and therefore very naturally rubbed 
his head. In a similar manner, when a savage sees a mark struck by 
a bullet, it may be some time before he is able at all to understand 
how it is effected; for the fact of a body being invisible from its 
velocity would perhaps be to him an idea totally inconceivable. 
Moreover, the extreme force of a bullet, that penetrates a hard sub- 
stance without tearing it, may convince the savage that it has no 
force at all. Certainly I believe that many savages of the lowest 


grade, such as these of Tierra del Fuego, have seen objects struck, 
and even small animals killed by the musket, without being in the 
least aware how deadly an instrument it is. 

22nd. After having passed an unmolested night, in what would 
appear to be neutral territory between Jemmy's tribe and the people 
whom we saw yesterday, we sailed pleasantly along. I do not know 
anything which shows more clearly the hostile state of the different 
tribes, than these wide border or neutral tracts. Although Jemmy 
Button well knew the force of our party, he was, at first, unwilling to 
land amidst the hostile tribe nearest to his own. He often told us 
how the savage Oens men "when the leaf red," crossed the moun- 
tains from the eastern coast of Tierra del Fuego, and made inroads 
on the natives of this part of the country. It was most curious to 
watch him when thus talking, and see his eyes gleaming and his 
whole face assume a new and wild expression. As we proceeded 
along the Beagle Channel, the scenery assumed a peculiar and very 
magnificent character; but the effect was much lessened from the 
lowness of the point of view in a -boat, and from looking along the 
valley, and thus losing all the beauty of a succession of ridges. The 
mountains were here about three thousand feet high, and termi- 
nated in sharp and jagged points. They rose in one unbroken sweep 
from the water's edge, and were covered to the height of fourteen 
or fifteen hundred feet by the dusky-coloured forest. It was most 
curious to observe, as far as the eye could range, how level and truly 
horizontal the line on the mountain side was, at which trees ceased 
to grow: it precisely resembled the high- water mark of drift- weed 
on a sea-beach. 

At night we slept close to the junction of Ponsonby Sound with 
the Beagle Channel. A small family of Fuegians, who were living in 
the cove, were quiet and inoffensive, and soon joined our party round 
a blazing fire. We were well clothed, and though sitting close to 
the fire were far from too warm; yet these naked savages, though 
further off, were observed, to our great surprise, to be streaming with 
perspiration at undergoing such a roasting. They seemed, however, 
very well pleased, and all joined in the chorus of the seamen's songs: 
but the manner in which they were invariably a little behindhand 
was quite ludicrous. 


During the night the news had spread, and early in the morning 
(23rd) a fresh party arrived, belonging to the Tekenika, or Jemmy's 
tribe. Several of them had run so fast that their noses were bleeding, 
and their mouths frothed from the rapidity with which they talked; 
and with their naked bodies all bedaubed with black, white, 1 and 
red, they looked like so many demoniacs who had been fighting. 
We then proceeded (accompanied by twelve canoes, each holding 
four or five people) down Ponsonby Sound to the spot where poor 
Jemmy expected to find his mother and relatives. He had already 
heard that his father was dead; but as he had had a "dream in his 
head" to that effect, he did not seem to care much about it, and 
repeatedly comforted himself with the very natural reflection "Me 
no help it." He was not able to learn any particulars regarding his 
father's death, as his relations would not speak about it. 

Jemmy was now in a district well known to him, and guided the 
boats to a quiet pretty cove named Woolly a, surrounded by islets, 
every one of which and every point had its proper native name. We 
found here a family of Jemmy's tribe, but not his relations: we made 
friends with them; and in the evening they sent a canoe to inform 
Jemmy's mother and brothers. The cove was bordered by some 
acres of good sloping land, not covered (as elsewhere) either by peat 
or by forest-trees. Captain Fitz Roy originally intended, as before 
stated, to have taken York Minster and Fuegia to their own tribe 
on the west coast; but as they expressed a wish to remain here, and 
as the spot was singularly favourable, Captain Fitz Roy determined 
to settle here the whole party, including Matthews, the mission- 
ary. Five days were spent in building for them three large wig- 
wams, in landing their goods, in digging two gardens, and sowing 

The next morning after our arrival (the 24th) the Fuegians began 

1 This substance, when dry, is tolerably compact, and of little specific gravity: 
Professor Ehrenberg has examined it: he states (Konig Akad. der Wissen: Berlin, 
Feb. 1845) that it is composed of infusoria, including fourteen polygastrica, and 
four phytolitharia. He says that they are all inhabitants of fresh-water; this is a 
beautiful example of the results obtainable through Professor Ehrenberg's microscopic 
researches; for Jemmy Button told me that it is always collected at the bottoms of 
mountain-brooks. It is, moreover, a striking fact in the geographical distribution of 
the infusoria, which are well known to have very wide ranges, that all the species 
in this substance, although brought from the extreme southern point of Tierra del 
Fuego, are old, known forms. 


to pour in, and Jemmy's mother and brothers arrived. Jemmy recog- 
nized the stentorian voice of one of his brothers at a prodigious 
distance. The meeting was less interesting than that between a horse, 
turned out into a field, when he joins an old companion. There was 
no demonstration of affection; they simply stared for a short time at 
each other; and the mother immediately went to look after her canoe. 
We heard, however, through York that the mother has been incon- 
solable for the loss of Jemmy, and had searched everywhere for 
him, thinking that he might have been left after having been taken 
in the boat. The women took much notice of and were very kind 
to Fuegia. We had already perceived that Jemmy had almost for- 
gotten his own language. I should think there was scarcely another 
human being with so small a stock of language, for his English was 
very imperfect. It was laughable, but almost pitiable, to hear him 
speak to his wild brother in English, and then ask him in Spanish 
("no sabe?") whether he did not understand him. 

Everything went on peaceably during the three next days, whilst 
the gardens were digging and wigwams building. We estimated 
the number of natives at about one hundred and twenty. The 
women worked hard, whilst the men lounged about all day long, 
watching us. They asked for everything they saw, and stole what 
they could. They were delighted at our dancing and singing, and 
were particularly interested at seeing us wash in a neighbouring 
brook; they did not pay much attention to anything else, not even 
to our boats. Of all the things which York saw, during his absence 
from his country, nothing seems more to have astonished him than 
an ostrich, near Maldonado: breathless with astonishment, he came 
running to Mr. Bynoe, with whom he was out walking "Oh, Mr. 
Bynoe, oh, bird all same horse!" Much as our white skins surprised 
the natives, by Mr. Low's account a negro-cook to a sealing vessel, 
did so more effectually; and the poor fellow was so mobbed and 
shouted at that he would never go on shore again. Everything went 
on so quietly, that some of the officers and myself took long walks 
in the surrounding hills and woods. Suddenly, however, on the 2yth, 
every woman and child disappeared. We were all uneasy at this, as 
neither York nor Jemmy could make out the cause. It was thought 
by some that they had been frightened by our cleaning and firing 


off our muskets on the previous evening; by others, that it was owing 
to offence taken by an old savage, who, when told to keep further 
off, had coolly spit in the sentry's face, and had then, by gestures 
acted over a sleeping Fuegian, plainly showed, as it was said, that 
he should like to cut up and eat our man. Captain Fitz Roy, to 
avoid the chance of an encounter, which would have been fatal to 
so many of the Fuegians, thought it advisable for us to sleep at a 
cove a few miles distant. Matthews, with his usual quiet fortitude 
(remarkable in a man apparently possessing little energy of char- 
acter), determined to stay with the Fuegians, who evinced no alarm 
for themselves; and so we left them to pass their first awful night. 

On our return in the morning (28th) we were delighted to find 
all quiet, and the men employed in their canoes spearing fish. Cap- 
tain Fitz Roy determined to send the yawl and one whale-boat back 
to the ship; and to proceed with the two other boats, one under his 
own command (in which he most kindly allowed me to accompany 
him), and one under Mr. Hammond, to survey the western parts 
of the Beagle Channel, and afterwards to return and visit the settle- 
ment. The day to our astonishment was overpoweringly hot, so that 
our skins were scorched: with this beautiful weather, the view in 
the middle of the Beagle Channel was very remarkable. Looking 
towards either hand, no object intercepted the vanishing points of 
this long canal between the mountains. The circumstance of its 
being an arm of the sea was rendered very evident by several huge 
whales 2 spouting in different directions. On one occasion I saw two 
of these monsters, probably male and female, slowly swimming one 
after the other, within less than a stone's throw of the shore, over 
which the beectntree extended its branches. 

We sailed on till it was dark, and then pitched our tents in a quiet 
creek. The greatest luxury was to find for our beds a beach of peb- 
bles, for they were dry and yielded to the body. Peaty soil is damp; 
rock is uneven and hard; sand gets into one's meat, when cooked and 
eaten boat-fashion; but when lying in our blanket-bags, on a good 
bed of smooth pebbles, we passed most comfortable nights. 

2 One day, off the East coast of Tierra del Fuego, we saw a grand sight in several 
spermaceti whales jumping upright quite out of the water, with the exception of 
their tail -fins. As they fell down sideways, they splashed the water high up, and 
the sound reverberated like a distant broadside. 


It was my watch till one o'clock. There is something very solemn 
in these scenes. At no time does the consciousness in what a remote 
corner of the world you are then standing, come so strongly before 
the mind. Everything tends to this effect; the stillness of the night 
is interrupted only by the heavy breathing of the seamen beneath the 
tents, and sometimes by the cry of a night-bird. The occasional 
barking of a dog, heard in the distance, reminds one that it is the 
land of the savage. 

January 2<)th. Early in the morning we arrived at the point where 
the Beagle Channel divides into two arms; and we entered the north- 
ern one. The scenery here becomes even grander than before. The 
lofty mountains on the north side compose the granitic axis, or 
backbone of the country, and boldly rise to a height of between three 
and four thousand feet, with one peak above six thousand feet. They 
are covered by a wide mantle of perpetual snow, and numerous 
cascades pour their waters, through the woods, into the narrow chan- 
nel below. In many parts, magnificent glaciers extend from the 
mountain side to the water's edge. It is scarcely possible to imagine 
anything more beautiful than the beryl-like blue of these glaciers, and 
especially as contrasted with the dead white of the upper expanse of 
snow. The fragments which had fallen from the glacier into the 
water were floating away, and the channel with its icebergs pre- 
sented, for the space of a mile, a miniature likeness of the Polar Sea. 
The boats being hauled on shore at our dinner-hour, we were admir- 
ing from the distance of half a mile a perpendicular cliff of ice, and 
were wishing that some more fragments would fall. At last, down 
came a mass with a roaring noise, and immediately we saw the 
smooth outline of a wave travelling towards us. The men ran down 
as quickly as they could to the boats; for the chance of their being 
dashed to pieces was evident. One of the seamen just caught hold 
of the bows, as the curling breaker reached it : he was knocked over 
and over, but not hurt; and the boats, though thrice lifted on high 
and let fall again, received no damage. This was most fortunate for 
us, for we were a hundred miles distant from the ship, and we should 
have been left without provisions or fire-arms. I had previously 
observed that some large fragments of rock on the beach had been 
lately displaced; but until seeing this wave, I did not understand 


the cause. One side of the creek was formed by a spur of mica-slate; 
the head by a cliff of ice about forty feet high; and the other side by 
a promontory fifty feet high, built up of huge rounded fragments of 
granite and mica-slate, out of which old trees were growing. This 
promontory was evidently a moraine, heaped up at a period when 
the glacier had greater dimensions. 

When we reached the western mouth of this northern branch of 
the Beagle Channel, we sailed amongst many unknown desolate 
islands, and the weather was wretchedly bad. We met with no 
natives. The coast was almost everywhere so steep, that we had 
several times to pull many miles before we could find space enough 
to pitch our two tents: one night we slept on large round boulders, 
with putrefying sea- weed between them; and when the tide rose, we 
had to get up and move our blanket-bags. The farthest point west- 
ward which we reached was Stewart Island, a distance of about one 
hundred and fifty miles from our ship. We returned into the Beagle 
Channel by the southern arm, and thence proceeded, with no adven- 
ture, back to Ponsonby Sound. 

February 6th. We arrived at Woollya. Matthews gave so bad an 
account of the conduct of the Fuegians, that Captain Fitz Roy deter- 
mined to take him back to the Beagle; and ultimately he was left at 
New Zealand, where his brother was a missionary. From the time 
of our leaving, a regular system of plunder commenced; fresh parties 
of the natives kept arriving: York and Jemmy lost many things, and 
Matthews almost everything which had not been concealed under- 
ground. Every article seemed to have been torn up and divided by 
the natives. Matthews described the watch he was obliged always to 
keep as most harassing; night and day he was surrounded by the 
natives, who tried to tire him out by making an incessant noise 
close to his head. One day an old man, whom Matthews asked to 
leave his wigwam, immediately returned with a large stone in his 
hand: another day a whole party came armed with stones and stakes, 
and some of the younger men and Jemmy's brother were crying: 
Matthews met them with presents. Another party showed by signs 
that they wished to strip him naked and pluck all the hairs out of 
his face and body. I think we arrived just in time to save his life. 
Jemmy's relatives had been so vain and foolish, that they had showed 


to strangers their plunder, and their manner of obtaining it. It was 
quite melancholy leaving the three Fuegians with their savage coun- 
trymen; but it was a great comfort that they had no personal fears. 
York, being a powerful resolute man, was pretty sure to get on well, 
together with his wife Fuegia. Poor Jemmy looked rather discon- 
solate, and would then, I have little doubt, have been glad to have 
returned with us. His own brother had stolen many things from 
him; and as he remarked, "What fashion call that:" he abused his 
countrymen, "all bad men, no sabe (know) nothing," and, though 
I never heard him swear before, "damned fools." Our three Fue- 
gians, though they had been only three years with civilized men, 
would, I am sure, have been glad to have retained their new habits; 
but this was obviously impossible. I fear it is more than doubtful, 
whether their visit will have been of any use to them. 

In the evening, with Matthews on board, we made sail back to the 
ship, not by the Beagle Channel, but by the southern coast. The 
boats were heavily laden and the sea rough, and we had a dangerous 
passage. By the evening of the 7th we were on board the Beagle 
after an absence of twenty days, during which time we had gone 
three hundred miles in the open boats. On the nth, Captain Fitz 
Roy paid a visit by himself to the Fuegians and found them going 
on well; and 'that they had lost very few more things. 

On the last day of February in the succeeding year (1834), the 
Beagle anchored in a beautiful little cove at the eastern entrance of 
the Beagle Channel. Captain Fitz Roy determined on the bold, and 
as it proved successful, attempt to beat against the westerly winds 
by the same route, which we had followed in the boats to the settle- 
ment at Woollya. We did not see many natives until we were near 
Ponsonby Sound, where we were followed by ten or twelve canoes. 
The natives did not at all understand the reason of our tacking, and, 
instead of meeting us at each tack, vainly strove to follow us in our 
zigzag course. I was amused at finding what a difference the cir- 
cumstance of being quite superior in force made, in the interest of 
beholding these savages. While in the boats I got to hate the very 
sound of their voices, so much trouble did they give us. The first and 
last word was "yammerschooner." When, entering some quiet little 


cove, we have looked round and thought to pass a quiet night, the 
odious word "yammerschooner" has shrilly sounded from some 
gloomy nook, and then the little signal-smoke has curled up to spread 
the news far and wide. On leaving some place we have said to each 
other, "Thank Heaven, we have at last fairly left these wretches!" 
when one more faint hallo from an all-powerful voice, heard at a 
prodigious distance, would reach our ears, and clearly could we 
distinguish "yammerschooner." But now, the more Fuegians the 
merrier; and very merry work it was. Both parties laughing, won- 
dering, gaping at each other; we pitying them, for giving us good 
fish and crabs for rags, etc.; they grasping at the chance of finding 
people so foolish as to exchange such splendid ornaments for a good 
supper. It was most amusing to see the undisguised smile of satis- 
faction with which one young woman with her face painted black, 
tied several bits of scarlet cloth round her head with rushes. Her 
husband, who enjoyed the very universal privilege in this country 
of possessing two wives, evidently became jealous of all the attention 
paid to his young wife; and, after a consultation with his naked 
beauties, was paddled away by them. 

Some of the Fuegians plainly showed that they had a fair notion 
of barter. I gave one man a large nail (a most valuable present) 
without making any signs for a return; but he immediately picked 
out two fish, and handed them up on the point of his spear. If any 
present was designed for one canoe, and it fell near another, it was 
invariably given to the right owner. The Fuegian boy, whom Mr. 
Low had on board, showed, by going into the most violent passion, 
that he quite understood the reproach of being called a liar, which 
in truth he was. We were this time, as on all former occasions, 
much surprised at the little notice, or rather none whatever, which 
was taken of many things, the use of which must have been evident 
to the natives. Simple circumstances such as the beauty of scarlet 
cloth or blue beads, the absence of women, our care in washing our- 
selves, excited their admiration far more than any grand or compli- 
cated object, such as our ship. Bougainville has well remarked 
concerning these people, that they treat the "chefs-d'oeuvre de 1'in- 
dustrie humaine, comme ils traitent les loix de la nature et ses 


On the 5th of March, we anchored in a cove at Woollya, but we 
saw not a soul there. We were alarmed at this, for the natives in 
Ponsonby Sound showed by gestures, that there had been fighting; 
and we afterwards heard that the dreaded Oens men had made a 
descent. Soon a canoe, with a little flag flying, was seen approaching, 
with one of the men in it washing the paint off his face. This man 
was poor Jemmy, now a thin, haggard savage, with long disordered 
hair, and naked, except a bit of blanket round his waist. We did not 
recognize him till he was close to us, for he was ashamed of himself, 
and turned his back to the ship. We had left him plump, fat, clean, 
and well-dressed; I never saw so complete and grievous a change. 
As soon, however, as he was clothed, and the first flurry was over, 
things wore a good appearance. He dined with Captain Fitz Roy, 
and ate his dinner as tidily as formerly. He told us that he had "too 
much" (meaning enough) to eat, that he was not cold, that his rela- 
tions were very good people, and that he did not wish to go back to 
England: in the evening we found out the cause of this great change 
in Jemmy's feelings, in the arrival of his young and nice-looking 
wife. With his usual good feeling, he brought two beautiful otter- 
skins for two of his best friends, and some spear-heads and arrows 
made with his own hands for the Captain. He said he had built a 
canoe for himself, and he boasted that he could talk a little of his own 
language! But it is a most singular fact, that he appears to have 
taught all his tribe some English: an old man spontaneously an- 
nounced "Jemmy Button's wife." Jemmy had lost all his property. 
He told us that York Minster had built a large canoe, and with his 
wife Fuegia, 3 had several months since gone to his own country, 
and had taken farewell by an act of consummate villainy; he per- 
suaded Jemmy and his mother to come with him, and then on the 
way deserted them by night, stealing every article of their property. 

Jemmy went to sleep on shore, and in the morning returned, and 
remained on board till the ship got under way, which frightened his 
wife, who continued crying violently till he got into his canoe. He 

3 Captain Sulivan, who, since his voyage in the Beagle, has been employed on the 
survey of the Falkland Islands, heard from a sealer in (1842?), that when in the 
western part of the Strait of Magellan, he was astonished by a native woman coming 
on board, who could talk some English. Without doubt this was Fuegia Basket. She 
lived (I fear the term probably bears a double interpretation) some days on board. 


returned loaded with valuable property. Every soul on board was 
heartily sorry to shake hands with him for the last time. I do not 
now doubt that he will be as happy as, perhaps happier than, if he 
had never left his own country. Every one must sincerely hope that 
Captain Fitz Roy's noble hope may be fulfilled, of being rewarded 
for the many generous sacrifices which he made for these Fuegians, 
by some shipwrecked sailor being protected by the descendants of 
Jemmy Button and his tribe! When Jemmy reached the shore, he 
lighted a signal fire, and the smoke curled up, bidding us a last and 
long farewell, as the ship stood on her course into the open sea. 

The perfect equality among the individuals composing the Fue- 
gian tribes must for a long time retard their civilization. As we see 
those animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and 
obey a chief, are most capable of improvement, so is it with the 
races of mankind. Whether we look at it as a cause or a consequence, 
the more civilized always have the most artificial governments. For 
instance, the inhabitants of Otaheite, who, when first discovered, 
were governed by hereditary kings, had arrived at a far higher grade 
than another branch of the same people, the New Zealanders, who, 
although benefited by being compelled to turn their attention to 
agriculture, were republicans in the most absolute sense. In Tierra 
del Fuego, until some chief shall arise with power sufficient to 
secure any acquired advantage, such as the domesticated animals, it 
seems scarcely possible that the political state of the country can be 
improved. At present, even a piece of cloth given to one is torn into 
shreds and distributed; and no one individual becomes richer than 
another. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand how a chief 
can arise till there is property of some sort by which he might mani- 
fest his superiority and increase his power. 

I believe, in this extreme part of South America, man exists in a 
lower state of improvement than in any other part of the world. The 
South Sea Islanders, of the two races inhabiting the Pacific, are com- 
paratively civilized. The Esquimau in his subterranean hut, enjoys 
some of the comforts of life, and in his canoe, when fully equipped, 
manifests much skill. Some of the tribes of Southern Africa, prowl- 
ing about in search of roots, and living concealed on the wild and 


arid plains, are sufficiently wretched. The Australian, in the sim- 
plicity of the arts of life, comes nearest the Fuegian : he can, however, 
boast of his boomerang, his spear and throwing-stick, his method of 
climbing trees, of tracking animals, and of hunting. Although the 
Australian may be superior in acquirements, it by no means follows 
that he is likewise superior in mental capacity : indeed, from what I 
saw of the Fuegians when on board, and from what I have read of 
the Australians, I should think the case was exactly the reverse. 


Strait of Magellan Port Famine Ascent of Mount Tarn Forests 
Edible Fungus Zoology Great Sea-weed Leave Tierra del Fuego 
Climate Fruit-trees and Productions of the Southern Coasts Height 
of Snow-line on the Cordillera Descent of Glaciers to the Sea Ice- 
bergs formed Transportal of Boulders Climate and Productions of 
the Antarctic Islands Preservation of Frozen Carcasses Recapitula- 

IN THE end of May, 1834, we entered for a second time the 
eastern mouth of the Strait of Magellan. The country on both 
sides of this part of the Strait consists of nearly level plains, like 
those of Patagonia. Cape Negro, a little within the second Narrows, 
may be considered as the point where the land begins to assume the 
marked features of Tierra del Fuego. On the east coast, south of the 
Strait, broken park-like scenery in a like manner connects these 
two countries, which are opposed to each other in almost every fea- 
ture. It is truly surprising to find in a space of twenty miles such a 
change in the landscape. If we take a rather greater distance, as 
between Port Famine and Gregory Bay, that is about sixty miles, the 
difference is still more wonderful. At the former place, we have 
rounded mountains concealed by impervious forests, which are 
drenched with the rain, brought by an endless succession of gales; 
while at Cape Gregory, there is a clear and bright blue sky over the 
dry and sterile plains. The atmospheric currents, 1 although rapid, 
turbulent, and unconfined by any apparent limits, yet seem to follow, 
like a river in its bed, a regularly determined course. 

During our previous visit (in January), we had an interview at 
Cape Gregory with the famous so-called gigantic Patagonians, who 

1 The south-westerly breezes are generally very dry. January 29th, being at 
anchor under Cape Gregory: a very hard gale from W. by S., clear sky with few 
cumuli; temperature 57, dew-point 36, difference 21. On January I5th, at Port 
St. Julian: in the morning, light winds with much rain, followed by a very heavy 
squall with rain, settled into heavy gale with large cumuli, cleared up, blowing 
very strong from S.S.W. Temperature 60, dew-point 42, difference 18. 



gave us a cordial reception. Their height appears greater than it 
really is, from their large guanaco mantles, their long flowing hair, 
and general figure: on an average, their height is about six feet, with 
some men taller and only a few shorter; and the women are also 
tall ; altogether they are certainly the tallest race which we anywhere 
saw. In features they strikingly resemble the more northern Indians 
whom I saw with Rosas, but they have a wilder and more formidable 
appearance: their faces were much painted with red and black, and 
one man was ringed and dotted with white like a Fuegian. Captain 
Fitz Roy offered to take any three of them on board, and all seemed 
determined to be of the three. It was long before we could clear the 
boat; at last we got on board with our three giants, who dined with 
the Captain, and behaved quite like gentlemen, helping them- 
selves with knives, forks, and spoons: nothing was so much relished 
as sugar. This tribe has had so much communication with sealers 
and whalers that most of the men can speak a little English and 
Spanish; and they are half civilized, and proportionally demoral- 

The next morning a large party went on shore, to barter for skins 
and ostrich-feathers; fire-arms being refused, tobacco was in great- 
est request, far more so than axes or tools. The whole population of 
the toldos, men, women, and children, were arranged on a bank. 
It was an amusing scene, and it was impossible not to like the so- 
called giants, they were so thoroughly good-humoured and unsus- 
pecting: they asked us to come again. They seem to like to have 
Europeans to live with them; and old Maria, an important woman 
in the tribe, once begged Mr. Low to leave any one of his sailors 
with them. They spend the greater part of the year here; but in 
summer they hunt along the foot of the Cordillera : sometimes they 
travel as far as the Rio Negro, 750 miles to the north. They are well 
stocked with horses, each man having, according to Mr. Low, six or 
seven, and all the women, and even children, their one own horse. 
In the time of Sarmiento (1580), these Indians had bows and arrows, 
now long since disused; they then also possessed some horses. This 
is a very curious fact, showing the extraordinarily rapid multiplica- 
tion of horses in South America. The horse was first landed at 
Buenos Ay res in 1537, and the colony being then for a time deserted, 


the horse ran wild; 2 in 1580, only forty-three years afterwards, we 
hear of them at the Strait of Magellan! Mr. Low informs me, that 
a neighbouring tribe of foot-Indians is now changing into horse- 
Indians : the tribe at Gregory Bay giving them their worn-out horses, 
and sending in winter a few of their best skilled men to hunt for 

]une ist. We anchored in the fine bay of Port Famine. It was 
now the beginning of winter, and I never saw a more cheerless 
prospect; the dusky woods, piebald with snow, could be only seen 
indistinctly, through a drizzling hazy atmosphere. We were, how- 
ever, lucky in getting two fine days. On one of these, Mount Sar- 
miento, a distant mountain 6800 feet high, presented a very noble 
spectacle. I was frequently surprised in the scenery of Tierra del 
Fuego, at the little apparent elevation of mountains really lofty. I 
suspect it is owing to a cause which would not at first be imagined, 
namely, that the whole mass, from the summit to the water's edge, 
is generally in full view. I remember having seen a mountain, first 
from the Beagle Channel, where the whole sweep from the summit 
to the base was full in view, and then from Ponsonby Sound across 
several successive ridges; and it was curious to observe in the latter 
case, as each fresh ridge afforded fresh means of judging of the dis- 
tance, how the mountain rose in height. 

Before reaching Port Famine, two men were seen running along 
the shore and hailing the ship. A 'boat was sent for them. They 
turned out to be two sailors who had run away from a sealing-vessel, 
and had joined the Patagonians. These Indians had treated them 
with their usual disinterested hospitality. They had parted company 
through accident, and were then proceeding to Port Famine in hopes 
of finding some ship. I dare say they were worthless vagabonds, but 
I never saw more miserable-looking ones. They had been living for 
some days on mussel-shells and berries, and their tattered clothes had 
been burnt by sleeping so near their fires. They had been exposed 
night and day, without any shelter, to the late incessant gales, with 
rain, sleet, and snow, and yet they were in good health. 

During our stay at Port Famine, the Fuegians twice came and 
plagued us. As there were many instruments, clothes, and men on 

2 Rengger, Natur. der Saugethiere von Paraguay. S. 334. 


shore, it was thought necessary to frighten them away. The first 
time a few great guns were fired, when they were far distant. It was 
most ludicrous to watch through a glass the Indians, as often as the 
shot struck the water, take up stones, and, as a bold defiance, throw 
them towards the ship, though about a mile and a half distant! A 
boat was sent with orders to fire a few musket-shots wide of them. 
The Fuegians hid themselves behind the trees, and for every dis- 
charge of the muskets they fired their arrows; all, however, fell short 
of the boat, and the officer as he pointed at them laughed. This made 
the Fuegians frantic with passion, and they shook their mantles in 
vain rage. At last, seeing the balls cut and strike the trees, they ran 
away, and we were left in peace and quietness. During the former 
voyage the Fuegians were here very troublesome, and to frighten 
them a rocket was fired at night over their wigwams; it answered 
effectually, and one of the officers told me that the clamour first 
raised, and the barking of the dogs, was quite ludicrous in contrast 
with the profound silence which in a minute or two afterwards pre- 
vailed. The next morning not a single Fuegian was in the neigh- 

When the Beagle was here in the month of February, I started one 
morning at four o'clock to ascend Mount Tarn, which is 2600 feet 
high, and is the most elevated point in this immediate district. We 
went in a boat to the foot of the mountain (but unluckily not to the 
best part) , and then began our ascent. The forest commences at the 
line of high-water mark, and during the first two hours I gave over 
all hopes of reaching the summit. So thick was the wood, that it was 
necessary to have constant recourse to the compass; for every land- 
mark, though in a mountainous country, was completely shut out. 
In the deep ravines, the death-like scene of desolation exceeded all 
description; outside it was blowing a gale, but in these hollows, not 
even a breath of wind stirred the leaves of the tallest trees. So 
gloomy, cold, and wet was every part, that not even the fungi, mosses, 
or ferns could flourish. In the valleys it was scarcely possible to crawl 
along, they were so completely barricaded by great mouldering 
trunks, which had fallen down in every direction. When passing 
over these natural bridges, one's course was often arrested by sinking 
knee deep into the rotten wood; at other times, when attempting to 


lean against a firm tree, one was startled by finding a mass of decayed 
matter ready to fall at the slightest touch. We at last found ourselves 
among the stunted trees, and then soon reached the bare ridge, which 
conducted us to the summit. Here was a view characteristic of 
Tierra del Fuego; irregular chains of hills, mottled with patches of 
snow, deep yellowish-green valleys, and arms of the sea intersecting 
the land in many directions. The strong wind was piercingly cold, 
and the atmosphere rather hazy, so that we did not stay long on the 
top of the mountain. Our descent was not quite so laborious as our 
ascent; for the weight of the body forced a passage, and all the slips 
and falls were in the right direction. 

I have already mentioned the sombre and dull character of the 
evergreen forests, 3 in which two or three species of trees grow, to the 
exclusion of all others. Above the forest land, there are many dwarf 
alpine plants, which all spring from the mass of peat, and help to 
compose it : these plants are very remarkable from their close alliance 
with the species growing on the mountains of Europe, though so 
many thousand miles distant. The central part of Tierra del Fuego, 
where the clay-slate formation occurs, is most favourable to the 
growth of trees; on the outer coast the poorer granitic soil, and a 
situation more exposed to the violent winds, do not allow of their 
attaining any great size. Near Port Famine I have seen more large 
trees than anywhere else : I measured a Winter's Bark which was four 
feet six inches in girth, and several of the beech were as much as 
thirteen feet. Captain King also mentions a beech which was seven 
feet in diameter, seventeen feet above the roots. 

There is one vegetable production deserving notice from its im- 
portance as an article of food to the Fuegians. It is a globular, bright- 
yellow fungus, which grows in vast numbers on the beech-trees. 
When young it is elastic and turgid, with a smooth surface; but 
when mature it shrinks, becomes tougher, and has its entire surface 
deeply pitted or honey-combed, as represented in the accompanying 

3 Captain Fitz Roy informs me that in April (our October), the leaves of those 
trees which grow near the base of the mountains change colour, but not those on 
the more elevated parts. I remember having read some observations, showing that 
in England the leaves fall earlier in a warm and fine autumn than in a late and 
cold one. The change in the colour being here retarded in the more elevated, and 
therefore colder situations, must be owing to the same general law of vegetation. 
The trees of Tierra del Fuego during no part of the year entirely shed their leaves. 


wood-cut. This fungus belongs to a new and curious genus; 4 I 
found a second species on another species of beech in Chile; and 
Dr. Hooker informs me, that just lately a third species has been 
discovered on a third species of beech in Van Dieman's Land. How 
singular is this relationship between parasitical fungi and the trees 
on which they grow, in distant parts of the world! In Tierra del 
Fuego the fungus in its tough and mature 
state is collected in large quantities by the 
women and children, and is eaten un- 
cooked. It has a mucilaginous, slightly 
sweet taste, with a faint smell like that of 
a mushroom. With the exception of a few 
berries, chiefly of a dwarf arbutus, the 
natives eat no vegetable food besides this 
fungus. In New Zealand, before the intro- 
duction of the potato, the roots of the fern were largely consumed; 
at the present time, I believe, Tierra del Fuego is the only country 
in the world where a cryptogamic plant affords a staple article of 

The zoology of Tierra del Fuego, as might have been expected 
from the nature of its climate and vegetation, is very poor. Of mam- 
malia, besides whales and seals, there is one bat, a kind of mouse 
(Reithrodon chinchilloides), two true mice, a ctenomys allied to or 
identical with the tucutuco, two foxes (Canis Magellanicus and C. 
Azarae), a sea-otter, the guanaco, and a deer. Most of these animals 
inhabit only the drier eastern parts of the country; and the deer has 
never been seen south of the Strait of Magellan. Observing the gen- 
eral correspondence of the cliffs of soft sandstone, mud, and shingle, 
on the opposite sides of the Strait, and on some intervening islands, 
one is strongly tempted to believe that the land was once joined, and 
thus allowed animals so delicate and helpless as the tucutuco and 
Reithrodon to pass over. The correspondence of the clifTs is far from 
proving any junction; because such clifTs generally are formed by 
the intersection of sloping deposits, which, before the elevation of 
the land, had been accumulated near the then existing shores. It is, 

4 Described from my specimens and notes by the Rev. J. M. Berkeley, in the 
Linnean Transactions (vol. xix. p. 37), under the name of Cyttaria Darwinii; the 
Chilian species is the C. Berteroii. This genus is allied to Bulgaria. 


however, a remarkable coincidence, that in the two large islands cut 
off by the Beagle Channel from the rest of Tierra del Fuego, one has 
cliffs composed of matter that may be called stratified alluvium, 
which front similar ones on the opposite side of the channel, while 
the other is exclusively bordered by old crystalline rocks: in the 
former, called Navarin Island, 'both foxes and guanacos occur; but 
in the latter, Hoste Island, although similar in every respect, and only 
separated by a channel a little more than half a mile wide, I have the 
word of Jemmy Button for saying that neither of these animals are 

The gloomy woods are inhabited by few birds: occasionally the 
plaintive note of a white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher (Myiobius albiceps) 
may be heard, concealed near the summit of the most lofty trees; and 
more rarely the loud strange cry of a black wood-pecker, with a fine 
scarlet crest on its head. A little, dusky-coloured wren (Scytalopus 
Magellanicus) hops in a skulking manner among the entangled mass 
of the fallen and decaying trunks. But the creeper (Oxyurus tupi- 
nieri) is the commonest bird in the country. Throughout the beech 
forests, high up and low down, in the most gloomy, wet, and im- 
penetrable ravines, it may be met with. This little bird no doubt 
appears more numerous than it really is, from its habit of following 
with seeming curiosity any person who enters these silent woods: 
continually uttering a harsh twitter, it flutters from tree to tree, 
within a few feet of the intruder's face. It is far from wishing for 
the modest concealment of the true creeper (Certhia familiaris); 
nor does it, like that bird, run up the trunks of trees, but indus- 
triously, after the manner of a willow-wren, hops about, and searches 
for insects on every twig and branch. In the more open parts, three 
or four species of finches, a thrush, a starling (or Icterus), two 
Opetiorhynchi, and several hawks and owls occur. 

The absence of any species whatever in the whole class of Reptiles, 
is a marked feature in the zoology of this country, as well as in that 
of the Falkland Islands. I do not ground this statement merely on 
my own observation, but I heard it from the Spanish inhabitants of 
the latter place, and from Jemmy Button with regard to Tierra del 
Fuego. On the banks of the Santa Cruz, in 50 south, I saw a frog; 


and it is not improbable that these animals, as well as lizards, may 
be found as far south as the Strait of Magellan, where the country 
retains the character of Patagonia; but within the damp and cold 
limit of Tierra del Fuego not one occurs. That the climate would not 
have suited some of the orders, such as lizards, might have been 
foreseen; but with respect to frogs, this was not so obvious. 

Beetles occur in very small numbers: it was long before I could 
believe that a country as large as Scotland, covered with vegetable 
productions and with a variety of stations, could be so unproductive. 
The few which I found were alpine species (Harpalidae and Heter- 
omidae) living under stones. The vegetable-feeding Chrysomelidae, 
so eminently characteristic of the Tropics, are here almost entirely 
absent; 5 I saw very few flies, butterflies, or bees, and no crickets or 
Orthoptera. In the pools of water I found but a few aquatic beetles, 
and not any fresh- water shells: Succinea at first appears an exception; 
but here it must be called a terrestrial shell, for it lives on the damp 
herbage far from the water. Land-shells could be procured only in 
the same alpine situations with the beetles. I have already contrasted 
the climate as well as the general appearance of Tierra del Fuego 
with that of Patagonia; and the difference is strongly exemplified in 
the entomology. I do not believe they have one species in common; 
certainly the general character of the insects is widely different. 

If we turn from the land to the sea, we shall find the latter as 
abundantly stocked with living creatures as the former is poorly so. 
In all parts of the world a rocky and partially protected shore per- 
haps supports, in a given space, a greater number of individual ani- 
mals than any other station. There is one marine production which, 
from its importance, is worthy of a particular history. It is the kelp, 
or Macrocystis pyrifera. This plant grows on every rock from low- 
water mark to a great depth, both on the outer coast and within the 

5 1 believe I must except one alpine Haltica, and a single specimen of a Melasoma. 
Mr. Waterhouse informs me, that of the Harpalidae there are eight or nine species 
the forms of the greater number being very peculiar; of Heteromera, four or five 
species; of Rhyncophora, six or seven; and of the following families one species in 
each: Staphylinidae, Elateridae, Cebrionidz, Melolonthidse. The species in the other 
orders are even fewer. In all the orders, the scarcity of the individuals is even more 
remarkable than that of the species. Most of the Coleoptera have been carefully 
described by Mr. Waterhouse in the Annals of Nat. Hist. 


channels. 6 I believe, during the voyages of the Adventure and 
Beagle, not one rock near the surface was discovered which was not 
buoyed by this floating weed. The good service it thus affords to 
vessels navigating near this stormy land is evident; and it certainly 
has saved many a one from being wrecked. I know few things more 
surprising than to see this plant growing and flourishing amidst those 
great breakers of the western ocean, which no mass of rock, let it 
be ever so hard, can long resist. The stem is round, slimy, and 
smooth, and seldom has a diameter of so much as an inch. A few 
taken together are sufficiently strong to support the weight of the 
large loose stones, to which in the inland channels they grow at- 
tached; and yet some of these stones were so heavy that when drawn 
to the surface, they could scarcely be lifted into a boat by one person. 
Captain Cook, in his second voyage, says, that this plant at Kerguelen 
Land rises from a greater depth than twenty-four fathoms; "and as 
it does not grow in a perpendicular direction, but makes a very acute 
angle with the bottom, and much of it afterwards spreads many 
fathoms on the surface of the sea, I am well warranted to say that 
some of it grows to the length of sixty fathoms and upwards." I do 
not suppose the stem of any other plant attains so great a length as 
three hundred and sixty feet, as stated by Captain Cook. Captain 
Fitz Roy, moreover, found it growing 7 up from the greater depth of 
forty-five fathoms. The beds of this sea-weed, even when of not great 
breadth, make excellent natural floating breakwaters. It is quite 
curious to see, in an exposed harbour, how soon the waves from the 
open sea, as they travel through the straggling stems, sink in height, 
and pass into smooth water. 
The number of living creatures of all Orders, whose existence 

6 Its geographical range is remarkably wide; it is found from the extreme southern 
islets near Cape Horn, as far north on the eastern coast (according to information 
given me by Mr. Stokes) as lat. 43, but on the western coast, as Dr. Hooker tells 
me, it extends to the R. San Francisco in California, and perhaps even to Kamtschatka. 
We thus have an immense range in latitude; and as Cook, who must have been well 
acquainted with the species, found it at Kerguelen Land, no less than 140 in 

7 Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, vol. i. p. 363. It appears that sea-weed 
grows extremely quick. Mr. Stephenson found (Wilson's Voyage round Scotland, 
vol. ii. p. 228) that a rock uncovered only at spring-tides, which had been chiselled 
smooth in November, on the following May, that is, within six months afterwards, 
was thickly covered with Fucus digitatus two feet, and F. esculentus six feet, in 


intimately depends on the kelp, is wonderful. A great volume might 
be written, describing the inhabitants of one of these beds of sea- 
weed. Almost all the leaves, excepting those that float on the surface, 
are so thickly incrusted with corallines as to be of a white colour. 
We find exquisitely delicate structures, some inhabited by simple 
hydra-like polypi, others by more organized kinds, and beautiful 
compound Ascidiae. On the leaves, also, various patelliform shells, 
Trochi, uncovered molluscs, and some bivalves are attached. Innu- 
merable Crustacea frequent every part of the plant. On shaking the 
great entangled roots, a pile of small fish, shells, cuttle-fish, crabs of 
all orders, sea-eggs, star-fish, beautiful Holuthuriae, Planariae, and 
crawling nereidous animals of a multitude of forms, all fall out to- 
gether. Often as I recurred to a branch of the kelp, I never failed to 
discover animals of new and curious structures. In Chiloe, where 
the kelp does not thrive very well, the numerous shells, corallines, 
and Crustacea are absent; but there yet remain a few of the Flustra- 
ceae, and some compound Ascidiae; the latter, however, are of differ- 
ent species from those in Tierra del Fuego: we see here the fucus 
possessing a wider range than the animals which use it as an abode. 
I can only compare these great aquatic forests of the southern hemi- 
sphere with the terrestrial ones in the intertropical regions. Yet if in 
any country a forest was destroyed, I do not believe nearly so many 
species of animals would perish as would here, from the destruction 
of the kelp. Amidst the leaves of this plant numerous species of fish 
live, which nowhere else could find food or shelter; with their de- 
struction the many cormorants and other fishing birds, the otters, 
seals, and porpoises, would soon perish also; and lastly, the Fuegian 
savage, the miserable lord of this miserable land, would redouble 
his cannibal feast, decrease in numbers, and perhaps cease to exist. 

June 8th. We weighed anchor early in the morning and left 
Port Famine. Captain Fitz Roy determined to leave the Strait of 
Magellan by the Magdalen Channel, which had not long been dis- 
covered. Our course lay due south, down that gloomy passage which 
I have before alluded to as appearing to lead to another and worse 
world. The wind was fair, but the atmosphere was very thick; so 
that we missed much curious scenery. The dark ragged clouds were 
rapidly driven over the mountains, from their summits nearly down 


to their bases. The glimpses which we caught through the dusky 
mass were highly interesting; jagged points, cones of snow, blue 
glaciers, strong outlines, marked on a lurid sky, were seen at differ- 
ent distances and heights. In the midst of such scenery we anchored 
at Cape Turn, close to Mount Sarmiento, which was then hidden in 
the clouds. At the base of the lofty and almost perpendicular sides of 
our little cove there was one deserted wigwam, and it alone reminded 
us that man sometimes wandered into these desolate regions. But 
it would be difficult to imagine a scene where he seemed to have 
fewer claims or less authority. The inanimate works of nature 
rock, ice, snow, wind, and water all warring with each other, yet 
combined against man here reigned in absolute sovereignty. 

June yth. In the morning, we were delighted by seeing the veil 
of mist gradually rise from Sarmiento, and display it to our view. 
This mountain, which is one of the highest in Tierra del Fuego, has 
an altitude of 6800 feet. Its base, for about an eighth of its total 
height, is clothed by dusky woods, and above this a field of snow 
extends to the summit. These vast piles of snow, which never melt, 
and seem destined to last as long as the world holds together, present 
a noble and even sublime spectacle. The outline of the mountain was 
admirably clear and defined. Owing to the abundance of light re- 
flected from the white and glittering surface, no shadows were cast 
on any part; and those lines which intersected the sky could alone be 
distinguished: hence the mass stood out in the boldest relief. Several 
glaciers descended in a winding course from the upper great expanse 
of snow to the sea-coast: they may be likened to great frozen Ni- 
agaras; and perhaps these cataracts of blue ice are full as beautiful as 
the moving ones of water. By night we reached the western part of 
the channel; but the water was so deep that no anchorage could be 
found. We were in consequence obliged to stand off and on in this 
narrow arm of the sea, during a pitch-dark night of fourteen hours 

June loth. In the morning we made the best of our way into the 
open Pacific. The western coast generally consists of low, rounded, 
quite barren hills of granite and greenstone. Sir }. Narborough 
called one part South Desolation, because it is "so desolate a land to 
behold :" and well indeed might he say so. Outside the main islands, 


there are numberless scattered rocks on which the long swell of the 
open ocean incessantly rages. We passed out between the East and 
West Furies; and a little farther northward there are so many 
breakers that the sea is called the Milky Way. One sight of such a 
coast is enough to make a landsman dream for a week about ship- 
wrecks, peril, and death; and with this sight we bade farewell for 
ever to Tierra del Fuego. 

The following discussion on the climate of the southern parts of the 
continent with relation to its productions, on the snow-line, on the 
extraordinarily low descent of the glaciers, and on the zone of per- 
petual congelation in the antarctic islands, may be passed over by 
any one not interested in these curious subjects, or the final recapitu- 
lation alone may be read. I shall, however, here give only an abstract, 
and must refer for details to the Thirteenth Chapter and the Appen- 
dix of the former edition of this work. 

On the Climate and Productions of Tierra del Fuego and of the 
South-west Coast. The following table gives the mean temperature 
of Tierra del Fuego, the Falkland Islands, and, for comparison, that 
of Dublin : 

Summer Winter Mean of Summer 

Latitude Temp. Temp. and Winter 

Tierra del Fuego 53 38' S. 50 33 .o8 4 i . 5 4 

Falkland Islands 51 388. 51 

Dublin 53 2.1 N. 59.54 39.1 49.37 

Hence we see that the central part of Tierra del Fuego is colder in 
winter, and no less than 9/2 less hot in summer, than Dublin. 
According to von Buch, the mean temperature of July (not the hot- 
test month in the year) at Saltenfiord in Norway, is as high as 
57. 8, and this place is actually 13 nearer the pole than Port Famine! 8 
Inhospitable as this climate appears to our feelings, evergreen trees 
flourish luxuriantly under it. Humming-birds may be seen sucking 
the flowers, and parrots feeding on the seeds of the Winter's Bark, 
in lat. 55 S. I have already remarked to what a degree the sea 

8 With respect to Tierra del Fuego, the results are deduced from the observations 
by Capt. King (Geographical Journal, 1830), and those taken on board the Beagle. 
For the Falkland Islands, I am indebted to Capt. Sulivan for the mean of the mean 
temperature (reduced from careful observation at midnight, 8 A.M., noon, and 8 P.M.) 
of the three hottest months, viz., December, January, and February. The temperature 
of Dublin is taken from Barton. 


swarms with living creatures; and the shells (such as the Patellae, 
Fissurellae, Chitons, and Barnacles), according to Mr. G. B. Sowerby, 
are of a much larger size and of a more vigorous growth, than the 
analogous species in the northern hemisphere. A large Voluta is 
abundant in southern Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. 
At Bahia Blanca, in lat. 39 S., the most abundant shells were three 
species of Oliva (one of large size), one or two Volutas, and a 
Terebra. Now, these are amongst the best characterized tropical 
forms. It is doubtful whether even one small species of Oliva exists 
on the southern shores of Europe, and there are no species of the 
two other genera. If a geologist were to find in lat. 39 on the coast 
of Portugal a bed containing numerous shells belonging to three 
species of Oliva, to a Voluta and Terebra, he would probably assert 
that the climate at the period of their existence must have been trop- 
ical; but judging from South America, such an inference might be 

The equable, humid, and windy climate of Tierra del Fuego ex- 
tends, with only a small increase of heat, for many degrees along the 
west coast of the continent. The forests for 600 miles northward of 
Cape Horn, have a very similar aspect. As a proof of the equable 
climate, even for 300 or 400 miles still further northward, I may men- 
tion that in Chiloe (corresponding in latitude with the northern 
parts of Spain) the peach seldom produces fruit, whilst strawberries 
and apples thrive to perfection. Even the crops of barley and wheat 9 
are often brought into the houses to be dried and ripened. At Val- 
divia (in the same latitude of 40, with Madrid) grapes and figs 
ripen, but are not common; olives seldom ripen even partially, and 
oranges not at all. These fruits, in corresponding latitudes in Europe, 
are well known to succeed to perfection; and even in this continent, 
at the Rio Negro, under nearly the same parallel with Valdivia, 
sweet potatoes (convolvulus) are cultivated; and grapes, figs, olives, 
oranges, water and musk melons, produce abundant fruit. Although 
the humid and equable climate of Chiloe, and of the coast northward 
and southward of it, is so unfavourable to our fruits, yet the native 
forests, from lat. 45 to 38, almost rival in luxuriance those of the 
glowing intertropical regions. Stately trees of many kinds, with 

9 Agueros, Descrip. Hist, de la Prov. de Chilo, 1791, p. 94. 


smooth and highly coloured barks, are loaded by parasitical mono- 
cotyledonous plants; large and elegant ferns are numerous, and 
arborescent grasses entwine the trees into one entangled mass to the 
height of thirty or forty feet above the ground. Palm-trees grow in 
lat. 37 ; an arborescent grass, very like a bamboo, in 40 ; and another 
closely allied kind, of great length, but not erect, flourishes even as 
far south as 45 S. 

An equable climate, evidently due to the large area of sea com- 
pared with the land, seems to extend over the greater part of the 
southern hemisphere; and, as a consequence, the vegetation par- 
takes of a semi-tropical character. Tree-ferns thrive luxuriantly in 
Van Diemen's Land (lat. 45), and I measured one trunk no less 
than six feet in circumference. An arborescent fern was found by 
Forster in New Zealand in 46, where orchideous plants are parasiti- 
cal on the trees. In the Auckland Islands, ferns, according to Dr. 
Dieffenbach 10 have trunks so thick and high that they may be almost 
called tree-ferns; and in these islands, and even as far south as lat. 
55 in the Macquarrie Islands, parrots abound. 

On the Height of the Snow-line, and on the Descent of the Gla- 
ciers in South America. For the detailed authorities for the follow- 
ing table, I must refer to the former edition : 

Height in feet 
Latitude at Snow-line Observer 

Equatorial region; mean result X 5>748 Humboldt. 

Bolivia, lat. 16 to 18 S 17,000 Pentland. 

Central Chile, lat. 33 S 14,500 to 15,000 Gillies, and the Author. 

Chiloe, lat. 41 to 43 S 6,000 Officers of the Beagle, 

and the Author. 
Tierra del Fuego, 54 S 3>5 to 4,ooo King. 

As the height of the plane of perpetual snow seems chiefly to be 
determined by the extreme heat of the summer, rather than by the 
mean temperature of the year, we ought not to be surprised at its 
descent in the Strait of Magellan, where the summer is so cool, to 
only 3500 or 4000 feet above the level of the sea; although in Nor- 
way, we must travel to between lat. 67 and 70 N., that is, about 
14 nearer the pole, to meet with perpetual snow at this low level. 
The difference in height, namely, about 9000 feet, between the snow- 
line on the Cordillera behind Chiloe (with its highest points rang- 

10 See the German Translation of this Journal; and for the other facts, Mr. Brown's 
Appendix to Flinders's Voyage. 


ing from only 5600 to 7500 feet) and in central Chile 11 (a distance of 
only 9 of latitude), is truly wonderful. The land from the south- 
ward of Chiloe to near Concepcion (lat. 37) is hidden by one 
dense forest dripping with moisture. The sky is cloudy, and we have 
seen how badly the fruits of southern Europe succeed. In central 
Chile, on the other hand, a little northward of Concepcion, the sky 
is generally clear, rain does not fall for the seven summer months, 
and southern European fruits succeed admirably; and even the sugar- 
cane has been cultivated. 12 No doubt the plane of perpetual snow 
undergoes the above remarkable flexure of 9000 feet, unparalleled in 
other parts of the world, not far from the latitude of Concepcion, 
where the land ceases to be covered with forest^rees; for trees in 
South America indicate a rainy climate, and rain a clouded sky and 
little heat in summer. 

The descent of glaciers to the sea must, I conceive, mainly depend 
(subject, of course, to a proper supply of snow in the upper region) 
on the lowness of the line of perpetual snow on steep mountains near 
the coast. As the snow-line is so low in Tierra del Fuego, we might 
have expected that many of the glaciers would have reached the sea. 
Nevertheless, I was astonished when I first saw a range, only from 
3000 to 4000 feet in height, in the latitude of Cumberland, with every 
valley filled with streams of ice descending to the sea-coast. Almost 
every arm of the sea, which penetrates to the interior higher chain, 
not only in Tierra del Fuego, but on the coast for 650 miles north- 
wards, is terminated by "tremendous and astonishing glaciers," as 
described by one of the officers on the survey. Great masses of ice 
frequently fall from these icy cliffs, and the crash reverberates like the 
broadside of a man-of-war through the lonely channels. These falls, 
as noticed in the last chapter, produce great waves which break on 
the adjoining coasts. It is known that earthquakes frequently cause 
masses of earth to fall from sea-cliffs: how terrific, then, would be 

11 On the Cordillera of central Chile, I believe the snow-line varies exceedingly in 
height in different summers. I was assured that during one very dry and long 
summer, all the snow disappeared from Aconcagua, although it attains the prodigious 
height of 23,000 feet. It is probable that much of the snow at these great heights 
is evaporated rather than thawed. 

12 Miers's Chile, vol. i. p. 415. It is said that the sugar-cane grew at Ingenio, 
lat. 32 to 33, but not in sufficient quantity to make the manufacture profitable. 
In the valley of Quillota, south of Ingenio, I saw some large date palm-trees. 



the effect of a severe shock (and such occur here 13 ) on a body like a 
glacier, already in motion, and traversed by fissures! I can readily 
believe that the water would be fairly beaten back out of the deepest 
channel, and then, returning with an overwhelming force, would 
whirl about huge masses of rock like so much chaff. In Eyre's 
Sound, in the latitude of Paris, there are immense glaciers, and yet 
the loftiest neighbouring mountain is only 6200 feet high. In this 



often inundated 




Sound, about fifty icebergs were seen at one time floating outwards, 
and one of them must have been at least 168 feet in total height. 
Some of the icebergs were loaded with blocks of no inconsiderable 
size, of granite and other rocks, different from the clay-slate of the 
surrounding mountains. The glacier furthest from the pole, sur- 
veyed during the voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, is in lat. 46 
50', in the Gulf of Penas. It is 15 miles long, and in one part 7 broad 
and descends to the sea-coast. But even a few miles northward of 
this glacier, in the Laguna de San Rafael, some Spanish missionaries 14 
encountered "many icebergs, some great, some small, and others 

13 Bulkeley's and Cummin's Faithful Narrative of the Loss of the Wager. The 
earthquake happened August 25, 1741. 
14 Agiieros, Desc. Hist, de Chiloe", p. 227. 


middle-sized," in a narrow arm of the sea, on the 22nd of the month 
corresponding with our June, and in a latitude corresponding with 
that of the Lake of Geneva! 

In Europe, the most southern glacier which comes down to the sea 
is met with, according to Von Buch, on the coast of Norway, in lat. 
67. Now, this is more than 20 of latitude, or 1230 miles, nearer the 
pole than the Laguna de San Rafael. The position of the glaciers at 
this place and in the Gulf of Penas may be put even in a more strik- 
ing point of view, for they descend to the sea-coast within J l /2 of 
latitude, or 450 miles, of a harbour, where three species of Oliva, a 
Voluta, and a Terebra, are the commonest shells, within less than 
9 from where palms grow, within 4/4 of a region where the 
jaguar and puma range over the plains, less than 2^2 from arbo- 
rescent grasses, and (looking to the westward in the same hemi- 
sphere) less than 2 from orchideous parasites, and within a single 
degree of tree-ferns! 

These facts are of high geological interest with respect to the cli- 
mate of the northern hemisphere at the period when boulders were 
transported. I will not here detail how simply the theory of ice- 
bergs being charged with fragments of rock, explain the origin and 
position of the gigantic boulders of eastern Tierra del Fuego, on 
the high plain of Santa Cruz, and on the island of Chiloe. In Tierra 
del Fuego, the greater number of boulders lie on the lines of old 
sea-channels, now converted into dry valleys by the elevation of the 
land. They are associated with a great unstratified formation of mud 
and sand, containing rounded and angular fragments of all sizes, 
which has originated 15 in the repeated ploughing up of the sea- 
bottom by the stranding of icebergs, and by the matter transported 
on them. Few geologists now doubt that those erratic 'boulders which 
lie near lofty mountains have been pushed forward by the glaciers 
themselves, and that those distant from mountains, and embedded 
in subaqueous deposits, have been conveyed thither either on ice- 
bergs or frozen in coast-ice. The connection between the transportal 
of boulders and the presence of ice in some form, is strikingly 
shown by their geographical distribution over the earth. In South 
America they are not found further than 48 of latitude, measured 

15 Geological Transactions, vol. vi. p. 415. 


from the southern pole; in North America it appears that the limit 
of their transportal extends to 53 1 / 2 from the northern pole; but in 
Europe to not more than 40 of latitude, measured from the same 
point. On the other hand, in the intertropical parts of America, Asia, 
and Africa, they have never been observed; nor at the Cape of Good 
Hope, nor in Australia. 16 

On the Climate and Productions of the Antarctic Islands. Con- 
sidering the rankness of the vegetation in Tierra del Fuego, and on 
the coast northward of it, the condition of the islands south and 
south-west of America is truly surprising. Sandwich Land, in the 
latitude of the north part of Scotland, was found by Cook, during 
the hottest month of -the year, "covered many fathoms thick with 
everlasting snow;" and there seems to be scarcely any vegetation. 
Georgia, an island 96 miles long and 10 broad, in the latitude of 
Yorkshire, "in the very height of summer, is in a manner wholly 
covered with frozen snow." It can boast only of moss, some tufts 
of grass, and wild burnet; it has only one land-bird (Anthus cor- 
rendera), yet Iceland, which is 10 nearer the pole, has, according to 
Mackenzie, fifteen land-birds. The South Shetland Islands, in the 
same latitude as the southern half of Norway, possess only some 
lichens, moss, and a little grass; and Lieut. Kendall 17 found the bay, 
in which he was at anchor, beginning to freeze at a period corre- 
sponding with our 8th of September. The soil here consists of ice 
and volcanic ashes interstratified; and at a little depth beneath the 
surface it must remain perpetually congealed, for Lieut. Kendall 
found the body of a foreign sailor which had long been buried, with 
the flesh and all the features perfectly preserved. It is a singular fact, 
that on the two great continents in the northern hemisphere (but not 
in the broken land of Europe between them), we have the zone of 
perpetually frozen undersoil in a low latitude namely, in 56 in 
North America at the depth of three feet, 18 and in 62 in Siberia at 

16 1 have given details (the first, I believe, published) on this subject in the first 
edition, and in the Appendix to it. I have there shown that the apparent exceptions 
to the absence of erratic boulders in certain hot countries, are due to erroneous ob- 
servations; several statements there given I have since found confirmed by various 

17 Geographical Journal, 1830, pp. 65, 66. 

18 Richardson's Append, to Back's Exped., and Humboldt's Fragm. Asiat., torn. ii. 
p. 386. 


the depth of twelve to fifteen feet as the result of a directly opposite 
condition of things to those of the southern hemisphere. On the 
northern continents, the winter is rendered excessively cold by the 
radiation from a large area of land into a clear sky, nor is it mod- 
erated by the warmth-bringing currents of the sea; the short summer, 
on the other hand, is hot. In the Southern Ocean the winter is not 
so excessively cold, but the summer is far less hot, for the clouded 
sky seldom allows the sun to warm the ocean, kself a bad absorbent 
of heat; and hence the mean temperature of the year, which regulates 
the zone of perpetually congealed under-soil, is low. It is evident that 
a rank vegetation, which does not so much require heat as it does 
protection from intense cold, would approach much nearer to this 
zone of perpetual congelation under the equable climate of the 
southern hemisphere, than under the extreme climate of the northern 

The case of the sailor's body perfectly preserved in the icy soil of 
the South Shetland Islands (lat. 62 to 63 S.), in a rather lower 
latitude than that (lat. 64 N.) under which Pallas found the frozen 
rhinoceros in Siberia, is very interesting. Although it is a fallacy, as 
I have endeavoured to show in a former chapter, to suppose that the 
larger quadrupeds require a luxuriant vegetation for their support, 
nevertheless it is important to find in the South Shetland Islands, 
a frozen under-soil within 360 miles of the forest-clad islands near 
Cape Horn, where, as far as the bulJ^ of vegetation is concerned, any 
number of great quadrupeds might be supported. The perfect preser- 
vation of the carcasses of the Siberian elephants and rhinoceroses is 
certainly one of the most wonderful facts in geology; but independ- 
ently of the imagined difficulty of supplying them with food from the 
adjoining countries, the whole case is not, I think, so perplexing as 
it has generally been considered. The plains of Siberia, like those of 
the Pampas, appear to have been formed under the sea, into which 
rivers brought down the bodies of many animals; of the greater 
number of these, only the skeletons have been preserved, but of 
others the perfect carcass. Now, it is known that in the shallow sea 
on the Arctic coast of America the bottom freezes, 19 and does not 
thaw in spring so soon as the surface of the land; moreover at 

19 Messrs. Dease and Simpson, in Geograph. Journ., vol. viii. pp. 218 and 220. 


greater depths, where the bottom o the sea does not freeze, the mud 
a few feet beneath the top layer might remain even in summer below 
32, as in the case on the land with the soil at the depth of a few 
feet. At still greater depths, the temperature of the mud and water 
would probably not be low enough to preserve the flesh; and hence, 
carcasses drifted beyond the shallow parts near an Arctic coast, 
would have only their skeletons preserved: now in the extreme 
northern parts of Siberia bones are infinitely numerous, so that even 
islets are said to be almost composed of them; 20 and those islets lie 
no less than ten degrees of latitude north of the place where Pallas 
found the frozen rhinoceros. On the other hand, a carcass washed 
by a flood into a shallow part of the Arctic Sea, would be preserved 
for an indefinite period, if it were soon afterwards covered with mud 
sufficiently thick to prevent the heat of the summer-water penetrating 
to it; and if, when the sea-bottom was upraised into land, the cover- 
ing was sufficiently thick to prevent the heat of the summer air and 
sun thawing and corrupting it. 

Recapitulation. I will recapitulate the principal facts with regard 
to the climate, ice-action, and organic productions of the southern 
hemisphere, transposing the places in imagination to Europe, with 
which we are so much better acquainted. Then, near Lisbon, the 
commonest sea-shells, namely, three species of Oliva, a Voluta, and 
a Terebra, would have a tropical character. In the southern provinces 
of France, magnificent forests, intwined by arborescent grasses and 
with the trees loaded with parasitical plants, would hide the face of 
the land. The puma and the jaguar would haunt the Pyrenees. In 
the latitude of Mont Blanc, but on an island as far westward as 
Central North America, tree-ferns and parasitical Orchideae would 
thrive amidst the thick woods. Even as far north as central Den- 
mark, humming-birds would be seen fluttering about delicate flowers, 
and parrots feeding amidst the evergreen woods; and in the sea there, 
we should have a Voluta, and all the shells of large size and vigorous 
growth. Nevertheless, on some islands only 360 miles northward of 
our new Cape Horn in Denmark, a carcass buried in the soil (or if 
washed into a shallow sea, and covered up with mud) would be 
preserved perpetually frozen. If some bold navigator attempted to 

20 Cuvier (Ossemens Fossiles, torn. i. p. 151), from Billing's Voyage. 


penetrate northward of these islands, he would run a thousand dan- 
gers amidst gigantic icebergs, on some of which he would see great 
blocks of rock 'borne far away from their original site. Another island 
of large size in the latitude of southern Scotland, but twice as far to 
the west, would be "almost wholly covered with everlasting snow," 
and would have each bay terminated by ice-cliffs, whence great 
masses would be yearly detached : this island would boast only of a 
little moss, grass, and burnet, and a titlark would be its only land 
inhabitant. From our new Cape Horn in Denmark, a chain of 
mountains, scarcely half the height of the Alps, would run in a 
straight line due southward; and on its western flank every deep 
creek of the sea, or fiord, would end in "bold and astonishing gla- 
ciers." These lonely channels would frequently reverberate with the 
falls of ice, and so often would great waves rush along their coasts; 
numerous icebergs, some as tall as cathedrals, and occasionally loaded 
with "no inconsiderable blocks of rock," would be stranded on the 
outlying islets; at intervals violent earthquakes would shoot prodi- 
gious masses of ice into the waters below. Lastly, some missionaries 
attempting to penetrate a long arm of the sea, would behold the not 
lofty surrounding mountains, sending down their many grand icy 
streams to the sea-coast, and their progress in the boats would be 
checked by the innumerable floating icebergs, some small and some 
great; and this would have occurred on our twenty-second of June, 
and where the Lake of Geneva is now spread out! 21 

21 In the former edition and Appendix, I have given some facts on the transportal 
of erratic boulders and icebergs in the Antarctic Ocean. This subject has lately been 
treated excellently by Mr. Hayes, in the Boston Journal (vol. iv. p. 426). The author 
does not appear aware of a case published by me (Geographical Journal, vol. ix. p. 528) 
of a gigantic boulder embedded in an iceberg in the Antarctic Ocean, almost certainly 
one hundred miles distant from any land, and perhaps much more distant. In the 
Appendix I have discussed at length the probability (at that time hardly thought of) 
of icebergs, when stranded, grooving and polishing rocks, like glaciers. This is now 
a very commonly received opinion: and I cannot still avoid the suspicion that it is 
applicable even to such cases as that of the Jura. Dr. Richardson has assured me 
that the icebergs off North America push before them pebbles and sand, and leave 
the submarine rocky flats quite bare; it is hardly possible to doubt that such ledges 
must be polished and scored in the direction of the set of the prevailing currents. 
Since writing that Appendix, I have seen in North Wales (London Phil. Mag., vol. 
xxi. p. 1 80) the adjoining action of glaciers and floating icebergs. 


Valparaiso Excursion to the Foot of the Andes Structure of the Land 
Ascend the Bell of Quillota Shattered Masses of Greenstone 
Immense Valleys Mines State of Miners Santiago Hot-baths of 
Cauquenes Gold-mines Grinding-mills Perforated Stones Habits 
of the Puma El Turco and Tapacolo Humming-birds. 

/ULY 2jrd. The Beagle anchored late at night in the bay of 
Valparaiso, the chief seaport of Chile. When morning came, 
everything appeared delightful. After Tierra del Fuego, the 
climate felt quite delicious the atmosphere so dry, and the heavens 
so clear and blue with the sun shining brightly, that all nature 
seemed sparkling with life. The view from the anchorage is very 
pretty. The town is built at the very foot of a range of hills, about 
1600 feet high, and rather steep. From its position, it consists of one 
long, straggling street, which runs parallel to the beach, and wher- 
ever a ravine comes down, the houses are piled up on each side of it. 
The rounded hills, being only partially protected by a very scanty 
vegetation, are worn into numberless little gullies, which expose a 
singularly bright red soil. From this cause, and from the low white- 
washed houses with tile roofs, the view reminded me of St. Cruz in 
TenerifTe. In a northwesterly direction there are some fine glimpses 
of the Andes: but these mountains appear much grander when 
viewed from the neighbouring hills; the great distance at which they 
are situated can then more readily be perceived. The volcano of 
Aconcagua is particularly magnificent. This huge and irregularly 
conical mass has an elevation greater than that of Chimborazo; for, 
from measurements made by the officers in the Beagle, its height is 
no less than 23,000 feet. The Cordillera, however, viewed from this 
point, owe the greater part of their beauty to the atmosphere through 
which they are seen. When the sun was setting in the Pacific, it was 
admirable to watch how clearly their rugged outlines could be dis- 



tinguished, yet how varied and how delicate were the shades of 
their colour. 

I had the good fortune to find living here Mr. Richard Corfield, 
an old schoolfellow and friend, to whose hospitality and kindness I 
was greatly indebted, in having afforded me a most pleasant residence 
during the Beagle's stay in Chile. The immediate neighbourhood of 
Valparaiso is not very productive to the naturalist. During the long 
summer the wind blows steadily from the southward, and a little off 
shore, so that rain never falls; during the three winter months, how- 
ever, it is sufficiently abundant. The vegetation in consequence is 
very scanty: except in some deep valleys, there are no trees, and only 
a little grass and a few low bushes are scattered over the less steep 
parts of the hills. When we reflect, that at the distance of 350 miles 
to the south, this side of the Andes is completely hidden by one im- 
penetrable forest, the contrast is very remarkable. I took several long 
walks while collecting objects of natural history. The country is 
pleasant for exercise. There are many very beautiful flowers; and, 
as in most other dry climates, the plants and shrubs possess strong 
and peculiar odours even one's clothes by brushing through them 
became scented. I did not cease from wonder at finding each suc- 
ceeding day as fine as the foregoing. What a difference does climate 
make in the enjoyment of life! How opposite are the sensations when 
viewing black mountains half enveloped in clouds, and seeing 
another range through the light blue haze of a fine day! The one 
for a time may be very sublime; the other is all gaiety and happy 

August iflh. I set out on a riding excursion, for the purpose of 
geologizing the basal parts of the Andes, which alone at this time of 
the year are not shut up by the winter snow. Our first day's ride was 
northward along the seacoast. After dark we reached the Hacienda 
of Quintero, the estate which formerly belonged to Lord Cochrane. 
My object in coming here was to see the great beds of shells, which 
stand some yards above the level of the sea, and are burnt for lime. 
The proofs of the elevation of this whole line of coast are unequivo- 
cal: at the height of a few hundred feet old-looking shells are nu- 
merous and I found some at 1300 feet. These shells either lie loose on 
the surface, or are embedded in a reddish-black vegetable mould. I 


was much surprised to find under the microscope that this vegetable 
mould is really marine mud, full of minute particles of organic bodies. 

i$th. We returned towards the valley of Quillota. The country 
was exceedingly pleasant; just such as poets would call pastoral: 
green open lawns, separated by small valleys with rivulets, and the 
cottages, we may suppose of the shepherds, scattered on the hill- 
sides. We were obliged to cross the ridge of the Chilicauquen. At 
its base there were many fine evergreen forest-trees, but these flour- 
ished only in the ravines, where there was running water. Any 
person who had seen only the country near Valparaiso, would never 
have imagined that there had been such picturesque spots in Chile. 
As soon as we reached the brow of the Sierra, the valley of Quillota 
was immediately under our feet. The prospect was one of remark- 
able artificial luxuriance. The valley is very broad and quite flat, 
and is thus easily irrigated in all parts. The little square gardens are 
crowded with orange and olive trees, and every sort of vegetable. On 
each side huge bare mountains rise, and this from the contrast ren- 
ders the patchwork valley the more pleasing. Whoever called "Val- 
paraiso" the "Valley of Paradise," must have been thinking of 
Quillota. We crossed over to the Hacienda de San Isidro, situated 
at the very foot of the Bell Mountain. 

Chile, as may be seen in the maps, is a narrow strip of land between 
the Cordillera and the Pacific; and this strip is itself traversed by 
several mountain-lines, which in this part run parallel to the great 
range. Between these outer lines and the main Cordillera, a succes- 
sion of level basins, generally opening into each other by narrow 
passages, extend far to the southward: in these, the principal towns 
are situated, as San Felipe, Santiago, San Fernando. These basins 
or plains, together with the transverse flat valleys (like that of Quil- 
lota) which connect them with the coast, I have no doubt are the 
bottoms of ancient inlets and deep bays, such as at the present day 
intersect every part of Tierra del Fuego and the western coast. Chile 
must formerly have resembled the latter country in the configura- 
tion of its land and water. The resemblance was occasionally shown 
strikingly when a level fog-bank covered, as with a mantle, all the 
lower parts of the country: the white vapour curling into the ravines, 
beautifully represented little coves and bays; and here and there a 


solitary hillock peeping up, showed that it had formerly stood there 
as an islet. The contrast of these flat valleys and basins with the ir- 
regular mountains, gave the scenery a character which to me was 
new and very interesting. 

From the natural slope to seaward of these plains, they are very 
easily irrigated, and in consequence singularly fertile. Without this 
process the land would produce scarcely anything, for during the 
whole summer the sky is cloudless. The mountains and hills are 
dotted over with bushes and low trees, and excepting these the vege- 
tation is very scanty. Each landowner in the valley possesses a certain 
portion of hill-country, where his half-wild cattle, in considerable 
numbers, manage to find sufficient pasture. Once every year there is 
a grand "rodeo," when all the cattle are driven down, counted, and 
marked, and a certain number separated to be fattened in the irri- 
gated fields. Wheat is extensively cultivated, and a good deal of In- 
dian corn : a kind of bean is, however, the staple article of food for the 
common labourers. The orchards produce an overflowing abun- 
dance of peaches, figs, and grapes. With all these advantages, the in- 
habitants of the country ought to be much more prosperous than 
they are. 

1 6th. The mayor-domo of the Hacienda was good enough to give 
me a guide and fresh horses; and in the morning we set out to ascend 
the Campana, or Bell Mountain, which is 6400 feet high. The paths 
were very bad, but both the geology and scenery amply repaid the 
trouble. We reached, by the evening, a spring called the Agua del 
Guanaco, which is situated at a great height. This must be an old 
name, for it is very many years since a guanaco drank its waters. 
During the ascent I noticed that nothing but bushes grew on the 
northern slope, whilst on the southern slope there was a bamboo 
about fifteen feet high. In a few places there were palms, and I was 
surprised to see one at an elevation of at least 4500 feet. These palms 
are, for their family, ugly trees. Their stem is very large, and of a 
curious form, being thicker in the middle than at the base or top. 
They are excessively numerous in some parts of Chile, and valuable 
on account of a sort of treacle made from the sap. On one estate near 
Petorca they tried to count them, but failed, after having numbered 
several hundred thousand. Every year in the early spring, in August, 


very many are cut down, and when the trunk is lying on the ground, 
the crown of leaves is lopped off. The sap then immediately begins to 
flow from the upper end, and continues so doing for some months: 
it is, however, necessary that a thin slice should be shaved ofif from 
that end every morning, so as to expose a fresh surface. A good 
tree will give ninety gallons, and all this must have 'been contained 
in the vessels of the apparently dry trunk. It is said that the sap 
flows much more quickly on those days when the sun is powerful; 
and likewise, that it is absolutely necessary to take care, in cutting 
down the tree, that it should fall with its head upwards on the side of 
the hill; for if it falls down the slope, scarcely any sap will flow; 
although in that case one would have thought that the action would 
have been aided, instead of checked, by the force of gravity. The sap 
is concentrated by boiling, and is then called treacle, which it very 
much resembles in taste. 

We unsaddled our horses near the spring, and prepared to pass the 
night. The evening was fine, and the atmosphere so clear, that the 
masts of the vessels at anchor in the bay of Valparaiso, although no 
less than twenty-six geographical miles distant, could be distin- 
guished clearly as little black streaks. A ship doubling the point 
under sail, appeared as a bright white speck. Anson expresses much 
surprise, in his voyage, at the distance at which his vessels were dis- 
covered from the coast; but he did not sufficiently allow for the 
height of the land, and the great transparency of the air. 

The setting of the sun was glorious; the valleys being black whilst 
the snowy peaks of the Andes yet retained a ruby tint. When it was 
dark, we made a fire beneath a little arbour of bamboos, fried our 
charqui (or dried slips of beef), took our mate, and were quite com- 
fortable. There is an inexpressible charm in thus living in the open 
air. The evening was calm and still; the shrill noise of the moun- 
tain bizcacha, and the faint cry of a goatsucker, were occasionally to 
be heard. Besides these, few birds, or even insects, frequent these 
dry, parched mountains. 

August ijthIn the morning we climbed up the rough mass of 
greenstone which crowns the summit. This rock, as frequently hap- 
pens, was much shattered and broken into huge angular fragments. 
I observed, however, one remarkable circumstance, namely, that 


many of the surfaces presented every degree of freshness some ap- 
pearing as if broken the day before, whilst on others lichens had 
either just become, or had long grown, attached. I so fully believed 
that this was owing to the frequent earthquakes, that I felt inclined 
to hurry from below each loose pile. As one might very easily be 
deceived in a fact of this kind, I doubted its accuracy, until ascend- 
ing Mount Wellington, in Van Diemen's Land, where earthquakes 
do not occur; and there I saw the summit of the mountain similarly 
composed and similarly shattered, but all the blocks appeared as if 
they had been hurled into their present position thousands of years 

We spent the day on the summit, and I never enjoyed one more 
thoroughly. Chile, bounded by the Andes and the Pacific, was seen 
as in a map. The pleasure from the scenery, in itself beautiful, was 
heightened by the many reflections which arose from the mere view 
of the Campana range with its lesser parallel ones, and of the broad 
valley of Quillota directly intersecting them. Who can avoid won- 
dering at the force which has upheaved these mountains, and even 
more so at the countless ages which it must have required to have 
broken through, removed, and levelled whole masses of them? 
It is well in this case to call to mind the vast shingle and sedimentary 
beds of Patagonia, which, if heaped on the Cordillera, would in- 
crease its height by so many thousand feet. When in that country, 
I wondered how any mountain-chain could have supplied such 
masses, and not have been utterly obliterated. We must not now 
reverse the wonder, and doubt whether all-powerful time can grind 
down mountains even the gigantic Cordillera into gravel and 

The appearance of the Andes was different from that which I had 
expected. The lower line of the snow was of course horizontal, and 
to this line the even summits of the range seemed quite parallel. 
Only at long intervals, a group of points or a single cone showed 
where a volcano had existed, or does now exist. Hence the range 
resembled a great solid wall, surmounted here and there by a tower, 
and making a most perfect barrier to the country. 

Almost every part of the hill had been drilled by attempts to open 
gold-mines: the rage for mining has left scarcely a spot in Chile un- 


examined. I spent the evening as before, talking round the fire with 
my two companions. The Guasos of Chile, who correspond to the 
Gauchos of the Pampas, are, however, a very different set of beings. 
Chile is the more civilized of the two countries, and the inhabitants, 
in consequence, have lost much individual character. Gradations in 
rank are much more strongly marked: the Guaso does not by any 
means consider every man his equal; and I was quite surprised to 
find that my companions did not like to eat at the same time with 
myself. This feeling of inequality is a necessary consequence of the 
existence of an aristocracy of wealth. It is said that some few of the 
greater landowners possess from five to ten thousand pounds sterling 
per annum: an inequality of riches which I believe is not met with in 
any of the cattle-breeding countries eastward of the Andes. A trav- 
eller does not here meet that unbounded hospitality which refuses all 
payment, but yet is so kindly offered that no scruples can be raised 
in accepting it. Almost every house in Chile will receive you for the 
night, but a trifle is expected to be given in the morning; even a rich 
man will accept two or three shillings. The Gaucho, although he 
may be a cutthroat, is a gentleman; the Guaso is in few respects 
better, but at the same time a vulgar, ordinary fellow. The two men, 
although employed much in the same manner, are different in their 
habits and attire; and the peculiarities of each are universal in their 
respective countries. The Gaucho seems part of his horse, and 
scorns to exert himself except when on his back: the Guaso may be 
hired to work as a labourer in the fields. The former lives entirely on 
animal food; the latter almost wholly on vegetable. We do not here 
see the white boots, the broad drawers and scarlet chilipa; the pic- 
turesque costume of the Pampas. Here, common trousers are pro- 
tected by black and green worsted leggings. The poncho, however, 
is common to both. The chief pride of the Guaso lies in his spurs, 
which are absurdly large. I measured one which was six inches in the 
diameter of the rowel, and the rowel itself contained upwards of 
thirty points. The stirrups are on the same scale, each consisting of a 
square, carved block of wood, hollowed out, yet weighing three or 
four pounds. The Guaso is perhaps more expert with the lazo than 
the Gaucho; but, from the nature of the country, he does not know 
the use of the bolas. 


August i8th. We descended the mountain, and passed some beau- 
tiful little spots, with rivulets and fine trees. Having slept at the 
same hacienda as before, we rode during the two succeeding days 
up the valley, and passed through Quillota, which is more like a 
collection of nursery-gardens than a town. The orchards were beau- 
tiful, presenting one mass of peach-blossoms. I saw, also, in one or 
two places the date-palm; it is a most stately tree; and I should think 
a group of them in their native Asiatic or African deserts must be 
superb. We passed likewise San Felipe, a pretty straggling town like 
Quillota. The valley in this part expands into one of those great 
bays or plains, reaching to the foot of the Cordillera, which have been 
mentioned as forming so curious a part of the scenery of Chile. In 
the evening we reached the mines of Jajuel, situated in a ravine at 
the flank of the great chain. I stayed here five days. My host, the 
superintendent of the mine, was a shrewd but rather ignorant Cor- 
nish miner. He had married a Spanish woman, and did not mean to 
return home; but his admiration for the mines of Cornwall re- 
mained unbounded. Amongst many other questions, he asked me, 
"Now that George Rex is dead, how many more of the family of 
Rexes are yet alive?" This Rex certainly must be a relation of the 
great author Finis, who wrote all books! 

These mines are of copper, and the ore is all shipped to Swansea, to 
be smelted. Hence the mines have an aspect singularly quiet, as 
compared to those in England: here no smoke, furnaces, or great 
steam-engines, disturb the solitude of the surrounding mountains. 

The Chilian government, or rather the old Spanish law, encourages 
by every method the searching for mines. The discoverer may work 
a mine on any ground, by paying five shillings; and before paying this 
he may try, even in the garden of another man, for twenty days. 

It is now well known that the Chilian method of mining is the 
cheapest. My host says that the two principal improvements intro- 
duced by foreigners have been, first, reducing by previous roasting 
the copper pyrites which, being the common ore in Cornwall, the 
English miners were astounded on their arrival to find thrown away 
as useless: secondly, stamping and washing the scoriae from the old 
furnaces by which process particles of metal are recovered in abun- 
dance. I have actually seen mules carrying to the coast, for transporta- 


tion to England, a cargo of such cinders. But the first case is much 
the most curious. The Chilian miners were so convinced that copper 
pyrites contained not a particle of copper, that they laughed at the 
Englishmen for their ignorance, who laughed in turn, and bought 
their richest veins for a few dollars. It is very odd that, in a country 
where mining had been extensively carried on for many years, so 
simple a process as gently roasting the ore to expel the sulphur 
previous to smelting it, had never been discovered. A few improve- 
ments have likewise been introduced in some of the simple ma- 
chinery; but even to the present day, water is removed from some 
mines by men carrying it up the shaft in leathern bags! 

The labouring men work very hard. They have little time allowed 
for their meals, and during summer and winter they begin when 
it is light, and leave off at dark. They are paid one pound sterling 
a month, and their food is given them: this for breakfast consists 
of sixteen figs and two small loaves of bread; for dinner, boiled beans; 
for supper, broken roasted wheat grain. They scarcely ever taste 
meat; as, with the twelve pounds per annum, they have to clothe 
themselves, and support their families. The miners who work in the 
mine itself have twenty-five shillings per month, and are allowed a 
little charqui. But these men come down from their bleak habita- 
tions only once in every fortnight or three weeks. 

During my stay here I thoroughly enjoyed scrambling about these 
huge mountains. The geology, as might have been expected, was 
very interesting. The shattered and baked rocks, traversed by in- 
numerable dykes of greenstone, showed what commotions had 
formerly taken place. The scenery was much the same as that near 
the Bell of Quillota dry barren mountains, dotted at intervals by 
bushes with a scanty foliage. The cactuses, or rather opuntias, were 
here very numerous. I measured one of a spherical figure, which, in- 
cluding the spines, was six feet and four inches in circumference. 
The height of the common cylindrical, branching kind, is from 
twelve to fifteen feet, and the girth (with spines) of the branches 
between three and four feet. 

A heavy fall of snow on the mountains prevented me, during 
the last two days, from making some interesting excursions. I at- 
tempted to reach a lake which the inhabitants, from some unaccount- 


able reason, believe to be an arm of the sea. During a very dry 
season, it was proposed to attempt cutting a channel from it for the 
sake of the water, but the padre, after a consultation, declared it 
was too dangerous, as all Chile would be inundated, if, as generally 
supposed, the lake was connected with the Pacific. We ascended to 
a great height, but becoming involved in the snow-drifts failed in 
reaching this wonderful lake, and had some difficulty in returning. 
I thought we should have lost our horses; for there was no means 
of guessing how deep the drifts were, and the animals, when led, 
could only move iby jumping. The black sky showed that a fresh 
snowstorm was gathering, and we therefore were not a little glad 
when we escaped. By the time we reached the base the storm com- 
menced, and it was lucky for us that this did not happen three hours 
earlier in the day. 

August 26th. We left Jajuel and again crossed the basin of San 
Felipe. The day was truly Chilian : glaringly bright and the atmos- 
phere quite clear. The thick and uniform covering of newly fallen 
snow rendered the view of the volcano of Aconcagua and the 
main chain quite glorious. We were now on the road to Santiago, 
the capital of Chile. We crossed the Cerro del Talguen, and slept at 
a little rancho. The host, talking about the state of Chile as com- 
pared to other countries, was very humble: "Some see with two eyes, 
and some with one, but for my part I do not think that Chile sees 
with any." 

August 2jth. After crossing many low hills we descended into 
the small land-locked plain of Guitron. In the basins, such as this 
one, which are elevated from one thousand to two thousand feet 
above the sea, two species of acacia, which are stunted in their forms, 
and stand wide apart from each other, grow in large numbers. These 
trees are never found near the sea-coast; and this gives another char- 
acteristic feature to the scenery of these basins. We crossed a low 
ridge which separates Guitron from the great plain on which San- 
tiago stands. The view was here pre-eminently striking: the dead 
level surface, covered in parts by woods of acacia, and with the city 
in the distance, abutting horizontally against the base of the Andes, 
whose snowy peaks were bright with the evening sun. At the first 
glance of this view, it was quite evident that the plain represented 


the extent of a former inland sea. As soon as we gained the level 
road we pushed our horses into a gallop, and reached the city before 
it was dark. 

I stayed a week in Santiago, and enjoyed myself very much. In 
the morning I rode to various places on the plain, and in the evening 
dined with several of the English merchants, whose hospitality at 
this place is well known. A never-failing source of pleasure was to 
ascend the little hillock of rock (St. Lucia) which projects in the 
middle of the city. The scenery certainly is most striking, and, as I 
have said, very peculiar. I am informed that this same character is 
common to the cities on the great Mexican platform. Of the town I 
have nothing to say in detail : it is not so fine or so large as Buenos 
Ayres, but is built after the same model. I arrived here by a circuit 
to the north; so I resolved to return to Valparaiso by a rather longer 
excursion to the south of the direct road. 

September yh. By the middle of the day we arrived at one of the 
suspension bridges, made of hide, which cross the Maypu, a large 
turbulent river a few leagues southward of Santiago. These bridges 
are very poor affairs. The road, following the curvature of the 
suspending ropes, is made of bundles of sticks placed close together. 
It was full of holes, and oscillated rather fearfully, even with the 
weight of a man leading his horse. In the evening we reached a 
comfortable farm-house, where there were several very pretty seiio- 
ritas. They were much horrified at my having entered one of their 
churches out of mere curiosity. They asked me, "Why do you not 
become a Christian for our religion is certain?" I assured them I 
was a sort of Christian; but they would not hear of it appealing to 
my own words, "Do not your padres, your very bishops, marry?" 
The absurdity of a bishop having a wife particularly struck them: 
they scarcely knew whether to be most amused or horror-struck at 
such an enormity. 

6th. We proceeded due south, and slept at Rancagua. The road 
passed over the level but narrow plain, bounded on one side by lofty 
hills, and on the other by the Cordillera. The next day we turned up 
the valley of the Rio Cachapual, in which the hot-baths of Cauquenes, 
long celebrated for their medicinal properties, are situated. The 
suspension bridges, in the less frequented parts, are generally taken 


down during the winter when the rivers are low. Such was the case 
in this valley, and we were therefore obliged to cross the stream on 
horseback. This is rather disagreeable, for the foaming water, though 
not deep, rushes so quickly over the bed of large rounded stones, that 
one's head becomes quite confused, and it is difficult even to perceive 
whether the horse is moving onward or standing still. In summer, 
when the snow melts, the torrents are quite impassable; their 
strength and fury are then extremely great, as might be plainly seen 
by the marks which they had left. We reached the baths in the 
evening, and stayed there five days, being confined the two last by 
heavy rain. The buildings consist of a square of miserable little 
hovels, each with a single table and bench. They are situated in a 
narrow deep valley just without the central Cordillera. It is a quiet, 
solitary spot, with a good deal of wild beauty. 

The mineral springs of Cauquenes burst forth on a line of dislo- 
cation, crossing a mass of stratified rock, the whole of which betrays 
the action of heat. A considerable quantity of gas is continually 
escaping from the same orifices with the water. Though the springs 
are only a few yards apart, they have very different temperature; and 
this appears to be the result of an unequal mixture of cold water: 
for those with the lowest temperature have scarcely any mineral 
taste. After the great earthquake of 1822 the springs ceased, and the 
water did not return for nearly a year. They were also much affected 
by the earthquake of 1835; the temperature being suddenly changed 
from 118 to 92 . 1 It seems probable that mineral waters rising deep 
from the bowels of the earth, would always be more deranged by sub- 
terranean disturbances than those nearer the surface. The man who 
had charge of the baths assured me that in summer the water is 
hotter and more plentiful than in winter. The former circumstance 
I should have expected, from the less mixture, during the dry season, 
of cold water; but the latter statement appears very strange and 
contradictory. The periodical increase during the summer, when 
rain never falls, can, I think, only be accounted for by the melting 
of the snow: yet the mountains which are covered by snow during 
that season, are three or four leagues distant from the springs. I 
have no reason to doubt the accuracy of my informer, who, having 
1 Caldcleugh, in Philosoph. Transact, for 1836. 


lived on the spot for several years, ought to be well acquainted with 
the circumstance, which, if true, certainly is very curious: for we 
must suppose that the snow-water, being conducted through porous 
strata to the regions of heat, is again thrown up to the surface by the 
line of dislocated and injected rocks at Cauquenes; and the regularity 
of the phenomenon would seem to indicate that in this district heated 
rock occurred at a depth not very great. 

One day I rode up the valley to the farthest inhabited spot. Shortly 
above that point, the Cachapual divides into two deep tremendous 
ravines, which penetrate directly into the great range. I scrambled 
up a peaked mountain, probably more than six thousand feet high. 
Here, as indeed everywhere else, scenes of the highest interest pre- 
sented themselves. It was by one of these ravines, that Pincheira 
entered Chile and ravaged the neighbouring country. This is the 
same man whose attack on an estancia at the Rio Negro I have 
described. He was a renegade half-caste Spaniard, who collected a 
great body of Indians together and established himself by a stream in 
the Pampas, which place none of the forces sent after him could ever 
discover. From this point he used to sally forth, and crossing the 
Cordillera by passes hitherto unattempted, he ravaged the farm- 
houses and drove the cattle to his secret rendezvous. Pincheira was 
a capital horseman, and he made all around him equally good, for 
he invariably shot any one who hesitated to follow him. It was 
against this man, and other wandering Indian tribes, that Rosas 
waged the war of extermination. 

September ijth. We left the baths of Cauquenes, and, rejoining 
the main road, slept at the Rio Clara. From this place we rode to 
the town of San Fernando. Before arriving there, the last land- 
locked basin had expanded into a great plain, which extended so far 
to the south, that the snowy summits of the more distant Andes were 
seen as if above the horizon of the sea. San Fernando is forty leagues 
from Santiago; and it was my farthest point southward; for we here 
turned at right angles towards the coast. We slept at the gold-mines 
of Yaquil, which are worked by Mr. Nixon, an American gentleman, 
to whose kindness I was much indebted during the four days I stayed 
at his house. The next morning we rode to the mines, which are sit- 
uated at the distance of some leagues, near the summit of a lofty 


hill. On the way we had a glimpse of the lake Tagua-tagua, cele- 
brated for its floating islands, which have been described by M. Gay. 2 
They are composed of the stalks of various dead plants intertwined 
together, and on the surface of which other living ones take root. 
Their form is generally circular, and their thickness from four 
to six feet, of which the greater part is immersed in the water. As 
the wind blows, they pass from one side of the lake to the other, 
and often carry cattle and horses as passengers. 

When we arrived at the mine, I was struck by the pale appearance 
of many of the men, and inquired from Mr. Nixon respecting their 
condition. The mine is 450 feet deep, and each man brings up about 
200 pounds weight of stone. With this load they have to climb up the 
alternate notches cut in the trunks of trees, placed in a zigzag line up 
the shaft. Even beardless young men, eighteen and twenty years 
old, with little muscular development of their bodies (they are quite 
naked excepting drawers) ascend with this great load from nearly 
the same depth. A strong man, who is not accustomed to this labour, 
perspires most profusely, with merely carrying up his own body. 
With this very severe labour, they live entirely on boiled beans and 
bread. They would prefer having bread alone; but their masters, 
finding that they cannot work so hard upon this, treat them like 
horses, and make them eat the beans. Their pay is here rather more 
than at the mines of Jajuel, being from 24 to 28 shillings per month. 
They leave the mine only once in three weeks; when they stay 
with their families for two days. One of the rules of this mine sounds 
very harsh, but answers pretty well for the master. The only method 
of stealing gold is to secrete pieces of the ore, and take them out as 
occasion may offer. Whenever the major-domo finds a lump thus 
hidden, its full value is stopped out of the wages of all the men; 
who thus, without they all combine, are obliged to keep watch over 
each other. 

When the ore is brought to the mill, it is ground into an impal- 
pable powder; the process of washing removes all the lighter particles, 
and amalgamation finally secures the gold-dust. The washing, when 
described, sounds a very simple process; but it is beautiful to see how 

2 Annales des Sciences Naturelles, March, 1833. M. Gay, a zealous and able 
naturalist, was then occupied in studying every branch of natural history throughout 
the kingdom of Chile. 


the exact adaptation of the current of water to the specific gravity of 
the gold, so easily separates the powdered matrix from the metal. 
The mud which passes from the mills is collected into pools, where 
it subsides, and every now and then is cleared out, and thrown into 
a common heap. A great deal of chemical action then commences, 
salts of various kinds effloresce on the surface, and the mass becomes 
hard. After having been left for a year or two, and then rewashed, 
it yields gold; and this process may be repeated even six or seven 
times; but the gold each time becomes less in quantity, and the 
intervals required (as the inhabitants say, to generate the metal) are 
longer. There can be no doubt that the chemical action, already 
mentioned, each time liberates fresh gold from some combination. 
The discovery of a method to effect this before the first grinding, 
would without doubt raise the value of gold-ores many fold. It is 
curious to find how the minute particles of gold, being scattered 
about and not corroding, at last accumulate in some quantity. A 
short time since a few miners, being out of work, obtained per- 
mission to scrape the ground round the house and mills; they washed 
the earth thus got together, and so procured thirty dollars' worth of 
gold. This is an exact counterpart of what takes place in nature. 
Mountains suffer degradation and wear away, and with them the 
metallic veins which they contain. The hardest rock is worn into 
impalpable mud, the ordinary metals oxidate, and both are removed; 
but gold, platina, and a few others are nearly indestructible, and from 
their weight, sinking to the bottom, are left behind. After whole 
mountains have passed through this grinding mill, and have been 
washed by the hand of nature, the residue becomes metalliferous, and 
man finds it worth his while to complete the task of separation. 

Bad as the above treatment of the miners appears, it is gladly 
accepted of by them; for the condition of the labouring agriculturists 
is much worse. Their wages are lower, and they live almost exclu- 
sively on beans. This poverty must be chiefly owing to the feudal- 
like system on which the land is tilled: the landowner gives a small 
plot of ground to the labourer, for building on and cultivating, and in 
return has his services (or those of a proxy) for every day of his 
life, without any wages. Until a father has a grown-up son, who can 
by his labour pay the rent, there is no one, except on occasional days, 


to take care of his own patch of ground. Hence extreme poverty is 
very common among the labouring classes in this country. 

There are some old Indian ruins in this neighbourhood, and I was 
shown one of the perforated stones, which Molina mentions as being 
found in many places in considerable numbers. They are of a circular 
flattened form, from five to six inches in diameter, with a hole passing 
quite through the centre. It has generally been supposed that they 
were used as heads to clubs, although their form does not appear at 
all well adapted for that purpose. Burchell 3 states that some of the 
tribes in Southern Africa dig up roots by the aid of a stick pointed 
at one end, the force and weight of which are increased by a round 
stone with a hole in it, into which the other end is firmly wedged. 
It appears probable that the Indians of Chile formerly used some 
such rude agricultural instrument. 

One day, a German collector in natural history, of the name of 
Renous, called, and nearly at the same time an old Spanish lawyer. 
I was amused at being told the conversation which took place be- 
tween them. Renous speaks Spanish so well, that the old lawyer 
mistook him for a Chilian. Renous, alluding to me, asked him what 
he thought of the King of England sending out a collector to their 
country, to pick up lizards and beetles, and to break stones? The 
old gentleman thought seriously for some time, and then said, "It is 
not well, hay un gato encerrado aqui (there is a cat shut up here). 
No man is so rich as to send out people to pick up such rubbish. I 
do not like it: if one of us were to go and do such things in England, 
do not you think the King of England would very soon send us out 
of his country?" And this old gentleman, from his profession, be- 
longs to the better informed and more intelligent classes! Renous 
himself, two or three years before, left in a house at San Fernando 
some caterpillars, under charge of a girl to feed, that they might turn 
into butterflies. This was rumoured through the town, and at last 
the padres and governor consulted together, and agreed it must be 
some heresy. Accordingly, when Renous returned, he was arrested. 

September igth. We left Yaquil, and followed the flat valley, 
formed like that of Quillota, in which the Rio Tinderidica flows. 
Even at these few miles south of Santiago the climate is much 

3 Burchell's Travels, vol. ii. p. 45. 


damper; in consequence there are fine tracts of pasturage, which are 
not irrigated, (loth.) We followed this valley till it expanded into 
a great plain, which reaches from the sea to the mountains west of 
Rancagua. We shortly lost all trees and even bushes; so that the 
inhabitants are nearly as badly off for firewood as those in the Pam- 
pas. Never having heard of these plains, I was much surprised at 
meeting with such scenery in Chile. The plains belong to more 
than one series of different elevations, and they are traversed by broad 
flat-bottomed valleys; both of which circumstances, as in Patagonia, 
bespeak the action of the sea on gently rising land. In the steep cliffs 
bordering these valleys, there are some large caves, which no doubt 
were originally formed by the waves: one of these is celebrated under 
the name of Cueva del Obispo; having formerly been consecrated. 
During the day I felt very unwell, and from that time till the end 
of October did not recover. 

September 22nd. We continued to pass over green plains without 
a tree. The next day we arrived at a house near Navedad, on the sea- 
coast, where a rich Haciendero gave us lodgings. I stayed here the 
two ensuing days, and although very unwell, managed to collect 
from the tertiary formation some marine shells. 

24th. Our course was now directed towards Valparaiso, which 
with great difficulty I reached on die lyth, and was there confined 
to my bed till the end of October. During this time I was an inmate 
in Mr. Corfield's house, whose kindness to me I do not know how to 

I will here add a few observations on some of the animals and birds 
of Chile. The Puma, or South American Lion, is not uncommon. 
This animal has a wide geographical range; being found from the 
equatorial forests, throughout the deserts of Patagonia, as far south as 
the damp and cold latitudes (53 to 54) of Tierra del Fuego. I 
have seen its footsteps in the Cordillera of central Chile, at an eleva- 
tion of at least 10,000 feet. In La Plata the puma preys chiefly on 
deer, ostriches, bizcacha, and other small quadrupeds; it there seldom 
attacks cattle or horses, and most rarely man. In Chile, however, it 
destroys many young horses and cattle, owing probably to the 
scarcity of other quadrupeds: I heard, likewise, of two men and a 


woman who had been thus killed. It is asserted that the puma always 
kills its prey by springing on the shoulders, and then drawing back 
the head with one of its paws, until the vertebrae break: I have seen 
in Patagonia the skeletons of guanacos, with their necks thus dis- 

The puma, after eating its fill, covers the carcass with many large 
bushes, and lies down to watch it. This habit is often the cause of 
its being discovered; for die condors wheeling in the air every now 
and then descend to partake of the feast, and being angrily driven 
away, rise all together on the wing. The Chileno Guaso then knows 
there is a lion watching his prey the word is given and men and 
dogs hurry to the chase. Sir F. Head says that a Gaucho in the Pam- 
pas, upon merely seeing some condors wheeling in the air, cried "A 
lion!" I could never myself meet with any one who pretended to 
such powers of discrimination. It is asserted that, if a puma has once 
been betrayed by thus watching the carcass, and has then been 
hunted, it never resumes this habit; but that, having gorged itself, 
it wanders far away. The puma is easily killed. In an open country, 
it is first entangled with the bolas, then lazoed, and dragged along 
the ground till rendered insensible. At Tandeel (south of the Plata), 
I was told that within three months one hundred were thus de- 
stroyed. In Chile they are generally driven up bushes or trees, and are 
then either shot, or baited to death by dogs. The dogs employed in 
this chase belong to a particular breed, called Leoneros: they are 
weak, slight animals, like long-legged terriers, but are born with a 
particular instinct for this sport. The puma is described as being 
very crafty : when pursued, it often returns on its former track, and 
then suddenly making a spring on one side, waits there till the dogs 
have passed by. It is a very silent animal, uttering no cry even when 
wounded, and only rarely during the breeding season. 

Of birds, two species of the genus Pteroptochos (megapodius and 
albicollis of Kittlitz) are perhaps the most conspicuous. The former, 
called by the Ohilenos "el Turco," is as large as a fieldfare, to which 
bird it has some alliance; but its legs are much longer, tail shorter, 
and beak stronger: its colour is a reddish brown. The Turco is not 
uncommon. It lives on the ground, sheltered among the thickets 
which are scattered over the dry and sterile hills. With its tail erect, 


and stilt-like legs, it may be seen every now and then popping from 
one bush to another with uncommon quickness. It really requires 
little imagination to believe that the bird is ashamed of itself, and is 
aware of its most ridiculous figure. On first seeing it, one is tempted 
to exclaim, "A vilely stuffed specimen has escaped from some mu- 
seum, and has come to life again!" It cannot be made to take flight 
without the greatest trouble, nor does it run, but only hops. The 
various loud cries which it utters when concealed amongst the 
bushes, are as strange as its appearance. It is said to build its nest in a 
deep hole beneath the ground. I dissected several specimens: the 
gizzard, which was very muscular, contained beetles, vegetable 
fibres, and pebbles. From this character, from the length of its legs, 
scratching feet, membranous covering to the nostrils, short and 
arched wings, this bird seems in a certain degree to connect the 
thrushes with the gallinaceous order. 

The second species (or P. albicollis) is allied to the first in its 
general form. It is called Tapacolo, or "cover your posterior;" and 
well does the shameless little bird deserve its name; for it carries its 
tail more than erect, that is, inclined backwards towards its head. It 
is very common, and frequents the bottoms of hedge-rows, and the 
bushes scattered over the barren hills, where scarcely another bird can 
exist. In its general manner of feeding, of quickly hopping out of the 
thickets and back again, in its desire of concealment, unwillingness 
to take flight, and nidification, it bears a close resemblance to the 
Turco; but its appearance is not quite so ridiculous. The Tapacolo 
is very crafty : when frightened by any person, it will remain motion- 
less at the bottom of a bush, and will then, after a little while, try 
with much address to crawl away on the opposite side. It is also an 
active bird, and continually making a noise: these noises are various 
and strangely odd; some are like the cooing of doves, others like the 
bubbling of water, and many defy all similes. The country people say 
it changes its cry five times in the year according to some change of 
season, I suppose. 4 

4 It is a remarkable fact, that Molina, though describing in detail all the birds and 
animals of Chile, never once mentions this genus, the species of which are so common, 
and so remarkable in their habits. Was he at a loss how to classify them, and did 
he consequently think that silence was the more prudent course? It is one more 
instance of the frequency of omissions by authors, on those very subjects where it might 
have been least expected. 


Two species of humming-birds are common; Trochilus forficatus 
is found over a space of 2500 miles on the west coast, from the hot 
dry country of Lima, to the forests of Tierra del Fuego where it 
may be seen flitting about in snow-storms. In the wooded island of 
Chiloe, which has an extremely humid climate, this little bird, 
skipping from side to side amidst the dripping foliage, is perhaps 
more abundant than almost any other kind. I opened the stomachs 
of several specimens, shot in different parts of the continent, and in 
all, remains of insects were as numerous as in the stomach of a 
creeper. When this species migrates in the summer southward, it is 
replaced by the arrival of another species coming from the north. 
This second kind (Trochilus gigas) is a very large bird for the deli- 
cate family to which it belongs: when on the wing its appearance is 
singular. Like others of the genus, it moves from place to place with 
a rapidity which may be compared to that of Syrphus amongst flies, 
and Sphinx among moths; but whilst hovering over a flower, it flaps 
its wings with a very slow and powerful movement, totally different 
from that vibratory one common to most of the species, which pro- 
duces the humming noise. I never saw any other bird where the 
force of its wings appeared (as in a butterfly) so powerful in pro- 
portion to the weight of its body. When hovering by a flower, its tail 
is constantly expanded and shut like a fan, the body being kept in a 
nearly vertical position. This action appears to steady and support 
the bird, between the slow movements of its wings. Although flying 
from flower to flower in search of food, its stomach generally con- 
tained abundant remains of insects, which I suspect are much more 
the object of its search than honey. The note of this species, like that 
of nearly the whole family, is extremely shrill. 


Chiloe General Aspect Boat Excursion Native Indians Castro 
Tame Fox Ascend San Pedro Chonos Archipelago Peninsula of 
Tres Montes Granitic Range Boat-wrecked Sailors Low's Harbour 
Wild Potato Formation of Peat Myopotamus, Otter and Mice 
Cheucau and Barking-bird Opetiorhynchus Singular Character of 
Ornithology Petrels. 

Tt ~TOV EMBER ioth. The Beagle sailed from Valparaiso to 

/ \l the south, for the purpose of surveying the southern part 
-* * of Chile, the island of Chiloe, and the broken land called 
the Chonos Archipelago, as far south as the Peninsula of Tres 
Montes. On the 2ist we anchored in the bay of S. Carlos, the capital 
of Chiloe. 

This island is about ninety miles long, with a breadth of rather 
less than thirty. The land is hilly, but not mountainous, and is 
covered by one great forest, except where a few green patches have 
been cleared round the thatched cottages. From a distance the view 
somewhat resembles that of Tierra del Fuego; but the woods, when 
seen nearer, are incomparably more beautiful. Many kinds of fine 
evergreen trees, and plants with a tropical character, here take the 
place of the gloomy beech of the southern shores. In winter the 
climate is detestable, and in summer it is only a little better. I should 
think there are few parts of the world, within the temperate regions, 
where so much rain falls. The winds are very boisterous, and the 
sky almost always clouded : to have a week of fine weather is some- 
thing wonderful. It is even difficult to get a single glimpse of the 
Cordillera: during our first visit, once only the volcano of Osorno 
stood out in bold relief, and that was before sunrise; it was curious 
to watch, as the sun rose, the outline gradually fading away in the 
glare of the eastern sky. 

The inhabitants, from their complexion and low stature, appear to 
have three-fourths of Indian blood in their veins. They are an 
humble, quiet, industrious set of men. Although the fertile soil, 



resulting from the decomposition of the volcanic rocks, supports a 
rank vegetation, yet the climate is not favourable to any production 
which requires much sunshine to ripen it. There is very little pasture 
for the larger quadrupeds; and in consequence, the staple articles of 
food are pigs, potatoes, and fish. The people all dress in strong 
woollen garments, which each family makes for itself, and dyes with 
indigo of a dark blue colour. The arts, however, are in the rudest 
state; as may be seen in their strange fashion of ploughing, their 
method of spinning, grinding corn, and in the construction of their 
boats. The forests are so impenetrable, that the land is nowhere culti- 
vated except near the coast and on the adjoining islets. Even where 
paths exist, they are scarcely passable from the soft and swampy 
state of the soil. The inhabitants, like those of Tierra del Fuego, move 
about chiefly on the beach or in boats. Although with plenty to eat, 
the people are very poor: there is no demand for labour, and con- 
sequently the lower orders cannot scrape together money sufficient 
to purchase even the smallest luxuries. There is also a great deficiency 
of a circulating medium. I have seen a man bringing on his back 
a bag of charcoal, with which to buy some trifle, and another carry- 
ing a plank to exchange for a bottle of wine. Hence every tradesman 
must also be a merchant, and again sell the goods which he takes 
in exchange. 

November 2^.th. The yawl and whale-boat were sent under the 
command of Mr. (now Captain) Sulivan, to survey the eastern or 
inland coast of Chiloe; and with orders to meet the Beagle at the 
southern extremity of the island; to which point she would proceed 
by the outside, so as thus to circumnavigate the whole. I accompanied 
this expedition, but instead of going in the boats the first day, I hired 
horses to take me to Chacao, at the northern extremity of the island. 
The road followed the coast; every now and then crossing promon- 
tories covered by fine forests. In these shaded paths it is absolutely 
necessary that the whole road should be made of logs of wood, which 
are squared and placed by the side of each other. From the rays of 
the sun never penetrating the evergreen foliage, the ground is so 
damp and soft, that except by this means neither man nor horse 
would be able to pass along. I arrived at the village of Chacao shortly 
after the tents belonging to the boats were pitched for the night. 


The land in this neighbourhood has been extensively cleared, and 
there were many quiet and most picturesque nooks in the forest. 
Chacao was formerly the principal port in the island; but many 
vessels having been lost, owing to the dangerous currents and rocks 
in the straits, the Spanish government burnt the church, and thus 
arbitrarily compelled the greater number of inhabitants to migrate 
to S. Carlos. We had not long bivouacked, before the barefooted son 
of the governor came down to reconnoitre us. Seeing the English 
flag hoisted at the yawl's mast-head, he asked with the utmost in- 
difference, whether it was always to fly at Chacao. In several places 
the inhabitants were much astonished at the appearance of men-of- 
war's boats, and hoped and believed it was the forerunner of a 
Spanish fleet, coming to recover the island from the patriot govern- 
ment of Chile. All the men in power, however, had been informed 
of our intended visit, and were exceedingly civil. While we were 
eating our supper, the governor paid us a visit. He had been a 
lieutenant-colonel in the Spanish service, but now was miserably 
poor. He gave us two sheep, and accepted in return two cotton 
handkerchiefs, some brass trinkets, and a little tobacco. 

2$th. Torrents of rain: we managed, however, to run down the 
coast as far as Huapi-lenou. The whole of this eastern side of Chiloe 
has one aspect; it is a plain, broken by valleys and divided into little 
islands, and the whole thickly covered with one impervious blackish- 
green forest. On the margins there are some cleared spaces, sur- 
rounding the high-roofed cottages. 

26th. The day rose splendidly clear. The volcano of Orsono was 
spouting out volumes of smoke. This most beautiful mountain, 
formed like a perfect cone, and white with snow, stands out in 
front of the Cordillera. Another great volcano, with a saddle-shaped 
summit, also emitted from its immense crater little jets of steam. Sub- 
sequently we saw the lofty-peaked Corcovado well deserving the 
name of "el famoso Corcovado." Thus we beheld, from one point 
of view, three great active volcanoes, each about seven thousand feet 
high. In addition to this, far to the south, there were other lofty 
cones covered with snow, which, although not known to be active, 
must be in their origin volcanic. The line of the Andes is not, in this 
neighbourhood, nearly so elevated as in Chile; neither does it appear 


to form so perfect a barrier between the regions of the earth. This 
great range, although running in a straight north and south line, 
owing to an optical deception, always appeared more or less curved; 
for the lines drawn from each peak to the beholder's eye, necessarily 
converged like the radii of a semicircle, and as it was not possible 
(owing to the clearness of the atmosphere and the absence of all 
intermediate objects) to judge how far distant the farthest peaks 
were off, they appeared to stand in a flattish semicircle. 

Landing at midday, we saw a family of pure Indian extraction. 
The father was singularly like York Minster; and some of the 
younger boys, with their ruddy complexions, might have been mis- 
taken for Pampas Indians. Everything I have seen, convinces me 
of the close connexion of the different American tribes, who never- 
theless speak distinct languages. This party could muster but little 
Spanish, and talked to each other in their own tongue. It is a 
pleasant thing to see the aborigines advanced to the same degree of 
civilization, however low that may be, which their white conquerors 
have attained. More to the south we saw many pure Indians : indeed, 
all the inhabitants of some of the islets retain their Indian surnames. 
In the census of 1832, there were in Chiloe and its dependencies 
forty-two thousand souls; the greater number of these appear to be 
of mixed blood. Eleven thousand retain their Indian surnames, but it 
is probable that not nearly all of these are of a pure breed. Their 
manner of life is the same with that of the other poor inhabitants, 
and they are all Christians; but it is said that they yet retain some 
strange superstitious ceremonies, and that they pretend to hold 
communication with the devil in certain caves. Formerly, every 
one convicted of this offence was sent to the Inquisition at Lima. 
Many of the inhabitants who are not included in the eleven thousand 
with Indian surnames, cannot be distinguished by their appearance 
from Indians. Gomez, the governor of Lemuy, is descended from 
noblemen of Spain on both sides; but by constant intermarriages 
with the natives the present man is an Indian. On the other hand, 
the governor of Quinchao boasts much of his purely kept Spanish 

We reached at night a beautiful little cove, north of the island 
of Caucahue. The people here complained of want of land. This is 


partly owing to their own negligence in not clearing the woods, and 
partly to restrictions by the government, which makes it necessary, 
before buying ever so small a piece, to pay two shillings to the 
surveyor for measuring each quadra (150 yards square), together 
with whatever price he fixes for the value of the land. After his 
valuation, the land must be put up three times to auction, and if no 
one bids more, the purchaser can have it at that rate. All these 
exactions must be a serious check to clearing the ground, where the 
inhabitants are so extremely poor. In most countries, forests are 
removed without much difficulty by the aid of fire; but in Chiloe, 
from the damp nature of the climate, and the sort of trees, it is 
necessary first to cut them down. This is a heavy drawback to the 
prosperity of Chiloe. In the time of the Spaniards the Indians could 
not hold land; and a family, after having cleared a piece of ground, 
might be driven away, and the property seized by the government. 
The Chilian authorities are now performing an act of justice by 
making retribution to these poor Indians, giving to each man, accord- 
ing to his grade of life, a certain portion of land. The value of 
uncleared ground is very little. The government gave Mr. Douglas 
(the present surveyor, who informed me of these circumstances) 
eight and a half square miles of forest near S. Carlos, in lieu of a 
debt; and this he sold for 350 dollars, or about jol. sterling. 

The two succeeding days were fine, and at night we reached the 
island of Quinchao. This neighbourhood is the most cultivated 
part of the Archipelago; for a broad strip of land on the coast of 
the main island, as well as on many of the smaller adjoining ones, is 
almost completely cleared. Some of the farmhouses seemed very 
comfortable. I was curious to ascertain how rich any of these people 
might be, but Mr. Douglas says that no one can be considered as 
possessing a regular income. One of the richest land-owners might 
possibly accumulate, in a long industrious life, as much as iooo/. 
sterling; but should this happen, it would all be stowed away in some 
secret corner, for it is the custom of almost every family to have a 
jar or treasure-chest buried in the ground. 

November jotti. Early on Sunday morning we reached Castro, 
the ancient capital of Chiloe, but now a most forlorn and deserted 
place. The usual quadrangular arrangement of Spanish towns could 


be traced, but the streets and plaza were coated with fine green turf, 
on which sheep were browsing. The church, which stands in the 
middle, is entirely built of plank, and has a picturesque and venerable 
appearance. The poverty of the place may be conceived from the 
fact, that although containing some hundreds of inhabitants, one of 
our party was unable anywhere to purchase either a pound of sugar 
or an ordinary knife. No individual possessed either a watch or a 
clock; and an old man, who was supposed to have a good idea of 
time, was employed to strike the church bell by guess. The arrival 
of our boats was a rare event in this quiet retired corner of the world; 
and nearly all the inhabitants came down to the beach to see us pitch 
our tents. They were very civil, and offered us a house; and one 
man even sent us a cask of cider as a present. In the afternoon we 
paid our respects to the governor a quiet old man, who, in his ap- 
pearance and manner of life, was scarcely superior to an English 
cottager. At night heavy rain set in, which was hardly sufficient to 
drive away from our tents the large circle of lookers-on. An Indian 
family, who had come to trade in a canoe from Caylen, bivouacked 
near us. They had no shelter during the rain. In the morning I 
asked a young Indian, who was wet to the skin, how he had passed 
the night. He seemed perfectly content, and answered, "Muy bien, 

December ist. We steered for the island of Lemuy. I was 
anxious to examine a reported coal-mine which turned out to be 
lignite of little value, in the sandstone (probably of an ancient tertiary 
epoch) of which these islands are composed. When we reached 
Lemuy we had much difficulty in finding any place to pitch our 
tents, for it was spring-tide, and the land was wooded down to the 
water's edge. In a short time we were surrounded by a large group 
of the nearly pure Indian inhabitants. They were much surprised 
at our arrival, and said one to the other, "This is the reason we have 
seen so many parrots lately; the cheucau (an odd red-breasted little 
bird, which inhabits the thick forest, and utters very peculiar noises) 
has not cried 'beware' for nothing." They were soon anxious for 
barter. Money was scarcely worth anything, but their eagerness for 
tobacco was something quite extraordinary. After tobacco, indigo 
came next in value; then capsicum, old clothes, and gunpowder. The 


latter article was required for a very innocent purpose: each parish 
has a public musket, and the gunpowder was wanted for making a 
noise on their saint or feast days. 

The people here live chiefly on shell-fish and potatoes. At certain 
seasons they catch also, in "corrales," or hedges under water, many 
fish which are left on the mud-banks as the tide falls. They occa- 
sionally possess fowls, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, and cattle; the order 
in which they are here mentioned, expressing their respective num- 
bers. I never saw anything more obliging and humble than the 
manners of these people. They generally began with stating that 
they were poor natives of the place, and not Spaniards, and that they 
were in sad want of tobacco and other comforts. At Caylen, the 
most southern island, the sailors bought with a stick of tobacco, of 
the value of three-halfpence, two fowls, one of which, the Indian 
stated, had skin between its toes, and turned out to be a fine duck; 
and with some cotton handkerchiefs, worth three shillings, three 
sheep and a large bunch of onions were procured. The yawl at this 
place was anchored some way from the shore, and we had fears for 
her safety from robbers during the night. Our pilot, Mr. Douglas, 
accordingly told the constable of the district that we always placed 
sentinels with loaded arms, and not understanding Spanish, if we 
saw any person in the dark, we should assuredly shoot him. The 
constable, with much humility, agreed to the perfect propriety of this 
arrangement, and promised us that no one should stir out of his 
house during that night. 

During the four succeeding days we continued sailing southward. 
The general features of the country remained the same, but it was 
much less thickly inhabited. On the large island of Tanqui there 
was scarcely one cleared spot, the trees on every side extending their 
branches over the sea-beach. I one day noticed, growing on the sand- 
stone cliffs, some very fine plants of the panke (Gunnera scabra), 
which somewhat resembles the rhubarb on a gigantic scale. The 
inhabitants eat the stalks, which are subacid, and tan leather with the 
roots, and prepare a black dye from them. The leaf is nearly circular, 
but deeply indented on its margin. I measured one which was nearly 
eight feet in diameter, and therefore no less than twenty-four in 
circumference ! The stalk is rather more than a yard high, and each 


plant sends out four or five of these enormous leaves, presenting 
together a very noble appearance. 

December 6th. We reached Caylen, called "el fin del Cristiandad." 
In the morning we stopped for a few minutes at a house on the 
northern end of Laylec, which was the extreme point of South 
American Christendom, and a miserable hovel it was. The latitude 
is 43 10', which is two degrees farther south than the Rio Negro on 
the Atlantic coast. These extreme Christians were very poor, and, 
under the plea of their situation, begged for some tobacco. As a 
proof of the poverty of these Indians, I may mention that shortly 
before this, we had met a man, who had travelled three days and a 
half on foot, and had as many to return, for the sake of recovering 
the value of a small axe and a few fish. How very difficult it must 
be to buy the smallest article, when such trouble is taken to recover 
so small a debt. 

In the evening we reached the island of San Pedro, where we 
found the Beagle at anchor. In doubling the point, two of the officers 
landed to take a round of angles with the theodolite. A fox (Canis 
fulvipes), of a kind said to be peculiar to the island, and very rare 
in it, and which is a new species, was sitting on the rocks. He was 
so intently absorbed in watching the work of the officers, that I was 
able, by quietly walking up behind, to knock him on the head with 
my geological hammer. This fox, more curious or more scientific, 
but less wise, than the generality of his brethren, is now mounted in 
the museum of the Zoological Society. 

We stayed three days in this harbour, on one of which Captain 
Fitz Roy, with a party, attempted to ascend to the summit of San 
Pedro. The woods here had rather a different appearance from 
those on the northern part of the island. The rock, also, being mica- 
ceous slate, there was no beach, but the steep sides dipped directly 
beneath the water. The general aspect in consequence was more like 
that of Tierra del Fuego than of Chiloe. In vain we tried to gain the 
summit: the forest was so impenetrable, that no one who has 
not beheld it can imagine so entangled a mass of dying and dead 
trunks. I am sure that often, for more than ten minutes together, 
our feet never touched the ground, and we were frequently ten or 
fifteen feet above it, so that the seamen as a joke called out the 


soundings. At other times we crept one after another on our hands 
and knees, under the rotten trunks. In the lower part of the moun- 
tain, noble trees of the Winter's Bark, and a laurel like the sassafras 
with fragrant leaves, and others, the names of which I do not know, 
were matted together by a trailing bamboo or cane. Here we were 
more like fishes struggling in a net than any other animal. On the 
higher parts, brushwood takes the place of larger trees, with here 
and there a red cedar or an alerce pine. I was also pleased to see, 
at an elevation of a little less than 1000 feet, our old friend the 
southern beech. They were, however, poor stunted trees; and I 
should think that this must be nearly their northern limit. We ulti- 
mately gave up the attempt in despair. 

December loth. The yawl and whale-boat, with Mr. Sulivan, 
proceeded on their survey, but I remained on board the Beagle, 
which the next day left San Pedro for the southward. On the I3th 
we ran into an opening in the southern part of Guayatecas, or the 
Chonos Archipelago; and it was fortunate we did so, for on the 
following day a storm, worthy of Tierra del Fuego, raged with great 
fury. White massive clouds were piled up against a dark blue sky, 
and across them black ragged sheets of vapour were rapidly driven. 
The successive mountain ranges appeared like dim shadows; and the 
setting sun cast on the woodland a yellow gleam, much like that 
produced by the flame of spirits of wine. The water was white with 
the flying spray, and the wind lulled and roared again through the 
rigging: it was an ominous, sublime scene. During a few minutes 
there was a bright rainbow, and it was curious to observe the effect 
of the spray, which being carried along the surface of the water, 
changed the ordinary semicircle into a circle a band of prismatic 
colours being continued, from both feet of the common arch across 
the bay, close to the vessel's side : thus forming a distorted, but very 
nearly entire ring. 

We stayed here three days. The weather continued bad: but this 
did not much signify, for the surface of the land in all these islands 
is all but impassable. The coast is so very rugged that to attempt 
to walk in that direction requires continued scrambling up and down 
over the sharp rocks of mica-slate; and as for the woods, our faces, 
hands, and shin-bones all bore witness to the maltreatment we 


received, in merely attempting to penetrate their forbidden recesses. 

December i8th. We stood out to sea. On the 20th we bade fare- 
well to the south, and with a fair wind turned the ship's head north- 
ward. From Cape Tres Montes we sailed pleasantly along the lofty 
weather-beaten coast, which is remarkable for the bold outline of its 
hills, and the thick covering of forest even on the almost precipitous 
flanks. The next day a harbour was discovered, which on this dan- 
gerous coast might be of great service to a distressed vessel. It can 
easily be recognized by a hill 1600 feet high, which is even more 
perfectly conical than the famous sugar-loaf at Rio de Janeiro. The 
next day, after anchoring, I succeeded in reaching the summit of this 
hill. It was a laborious undertaking, for the sides were so steep that 
in some parts it was necessary to use the trees as ladders. There were 
also several extensive brakes of the Fuchsia, covered with its beautiful 
drooping flowers, but very difficult to crawl through. In these wild 
countries it gives much delight to gain the summit of any mountain. 
There is an indefinite expectation of seeing something very strange, 
which, however often it may be balked, never failed with me to recur 
on each successive attempt. Every one must know the feeling of 
triumph and pride which a grand view from a height communicates 
to the mind. In these little frequented countries there is also joined 
to it some vanity, that you perhaps are the first man who ever stood 
on this pinnacle or admired this view. 

A strong desire is always felt to ascertain whether any human being 
has previously visited an unfrequented spot. A bit of wood with a 
nail in it, is picked up and studied as if it were covered with hiero- 
glyphics. Possessed with this feeling, I was much interested by find- 
ing, on a wild part of the coast, a bed made of grass beneath a ledge 
of rock. Close by it there had been a fire, and the man had used an 
axe. The fire, bed, and situation showed the dexterity of an Indian; 
but he could scarcely have -been an Indian, for the race is in this part 
extinct, owing to the Catholic desire of making at one blow Chris- 
tians and Slaves. I had at the time some misgivings that the solitary 
man who had made his bed on this wild spot, must have been some 
poor shipwrecked sailor, who, in trying to travel up the coast, had 
here laid himself down for his dreary night. 

December 28th. The weather continued very bad, but it at last 


permitted us to proceed with the survey. The time hung heavy on 
our hands, as it always did when we were delayed from day to day 
by successive gales of wind. In the evening another harbour was 
discovered, where we anchored. Directly afterwards a man was seen 
waving a shirt, and a boat was sent which brought back two seamen. 
A party of six had run away from an American whaling vessel, and 
had landed a little to the southward in a boat, which was shortly 
afterwards knocked to pieces by the surf. They had now been wan- 
dering up and down the coast for fifteen months, without knowing 
which way to go, or where they were. What a singular piece of good 
fortune it was that this harbour was now discovered! Had it not 
been for this one chance, they might have wandered till they had 
grown old men, and at last have perished on this wild coast. Their 
sufferings had been very great, and one of their party had lost his 
life by falling from the cliffs. They were sometimes obliged to 
separate in search of food, and this explained the bed of the solitary 
man. Considering what they had undergone, I think they had kept a 
very good reckoning of time, for they had lost only four days. 

December jotti. We anchored in a snug little cove at the foot of 
some high hills, near the northern extremity of Tres Montes. After 
breakfast the next morning, a party ascended one of these mountains, 
which was 2400 feet high. The scenery was remarkable. The chief 
part of the range was composed of grand, solid, abrupt masses of 
granite, which appeared as if they had been coeval with the begin- 
ning of the world. The granite was capped with mica-slate, and this 
in the lapse of ages had been worn into strange finger-shaped points. 
These two formations, thus differing in their outlines, agree in being 
almost destitute of vegetation. This barrenness had to our eyes a 
strange appearance, from having been so long accustomed to the 
sight of an almost universal forest of dark-green trees. I took much 
delight in examining the structure of these mountains. The compli- 
cated and lofty ranges bore a noble aspect of durability equally prof- 
itless, however, to man and to all other animals. Granite to the geolo- 
gist is classic ground: from its widespread limits, and its beautiful 
and compact texture, few rocks have been more anciently recognised. 
Granite has given rise, perhaps, to more discussion concerning its 
origin than any other formation. We generally see it constituting the 


fundamental rock, and, however formed, we know it is the deepest 
layer in the crust of this globe to which man has penetrated. The 
limit of man's knowledge in any subject possesses a high interest, 
which is perhaps increased by its close neighbourhood to the realms 
of imagination. 

January ist, 1835. The new year is ushered in with the ceremonies 
proper to it in these regions. She lays out no false hopes: a heavy 
north-western gale, with steady rain, bespeaks the rising year. Thank 
God, we are not destined here to see the end of it, but hope then to 
be in the Pacific Ocean, where a blue sky tells one there is a heaven, 
a something beyond the clouds above our heads. 

The north-west winds prevailing for the next four days, we only 
managed to cross a great bay, and then anchored in another secure 
harbour. I accompanied the Captain in a boat to the head of a deep 
creek. On the way the number of seals which we saw was quite 
astonishing: every bit of flat rock, and parts of the beach, were covered 
with them. They appeared to be of a loving disposition, and lay 
huddled together, fast asleep, like so many pigs; but even pigs would 
have been ashamed of their dirt, and of the foul smell which came 
from them. Each herd was watched by the patient but inauspicious 
eyes of the turkey-buzzard. This disgusting bird, with its bald scarlet 
head, formed to wallow in putridity, is very common on the west 
coast, and their attendance on the seals shows on what they rely for 
their food. We found the water (probably only that of the surface) 
nearly fresh: this was caused by the number of torrents which, in 
the form of cascades, came tumbling over the bold granite mountains 
into the sea. The fresh water attracts the fish, and these bring many 
terns, gulls, and two kinds of cormorant. We saw also a pair of 
the beautiful black-necked swans, and several small sea-otters, the fur 
of which is held in such high estimation. In returning, we were again 
amused by the impetuous manner in which the heap of seals, old 
and young, tumbled into the water as the boat passed. They did not 
remain long under water, but rising, followed us with out-stretched 
necks, expressing great wonder and curiosity. 

jth Having run up the coast, we anchored near the northern end 
of the Chonos Archipelago, in Low's Harbour, where we remained 
a week. The islands were here, as in Chiloe, composed of a stratified, 


soft, littoral deposit; and the vegetation in consequence was beauti- 
fully luxuriant. The woods came down to the sea-beach, just in the 
manner of an evergreen shrubbery over a gravel walk. We also 
enjoyed from the anchorage a splendid view of four great snowy 
cones of the Cordillera, including "el famoso Corcovado;" the range 
itself had in this latitude so little height, that few parts of it appeared 
above the tops of the neighbouring islets. We found here a party 
of five men from Caylen, "el fin del Cristiandad," who had most 
adventurously crossed in their miserable boat-canoe, for the purpose 
of fishing, the open space of sea which separates Chonos from Chiloe. 
These islands will, in all probability, in a short time become peopled 
like those adjoining the coast of Chiloe. 

The wild potato grows on these islands in great abundance, on the 
sandy, shelly soil near the sea^beach. The tallest plant was four feet 
in height. The tubers were generally small, but I found one, of an 
oval shape, two inches in diameter: they resembled in every respect, 
and had the same smell as English potatoes; but when boiled they 
shrunk much, and were watery and insipid, without any bitter taste. 
They are undoubtedly here indigenous: they grow as far south, 
according to Mr. Low, as lat. 50, and are called Aquinas by the wild 
Indians of that part: the Chilotan Indians have a different name for 
them. Professor Henslow, who has examined the dried specimens 
which I brought home, says that they are the same with those de- 
scribed by Mr. Sabine 1 from Valparaiso, but that they form a variety 
which by some botanists has been considered as specifically distinct. 
It is remarkable that the same plant should be found on the sterile 
mountains of central Chile, where a drop of rain does not fall for 
more than six months, and within the damp forests of these southern 

In the central parts of the Chonos Archipelago (lat. 45), the 
forest has very much the same character with that along the whole 
west coast, for 600 miles southward to Cape Horn. The arborescent 
grass of Chiloe is not found here; while the beech of Tierra del 

1 Horticultural Transact., vol. v. p. 249. Mr. Caldcleugh sent home two tubers, 
which, being well manured, even the first season produced numerous potatoes and an 
abundance of leaves. See Humboldt's interesting discussion on this plant, which it 
appears was unknown in Mexico, in Polit. Essay on New Spain, book iv. chap. ix. 


Fuego grows to a good size, and forms a considerable proportion of 
the wood; not, however, in the same exclusive manner as it does 
farther southward. Cryptogamic plants here find a most congenial 
climate. In the Strait of Magellan, as I have before remarked, the 
country appears too cold and wet to allow of their arriving at per- 
fection; but in these islands, within the forest, the number of species 
and great abundance of mosses, lichens, and small ferns, is quite 
extraordinary. 2 In Tierra del Fuego trees grow only on the hillsides; 
every level piece of land being invariably covered by a thick bed of 
peat; but in Chiloe flat land supports the most luxuriant forests. 
Here, within the Chonos Archipelago, the nature of the climate more 
closely approaches that of Tierra del Fuego than that of northern 
Chiloe; for every patch of level ground is covered by two species of 
plants (Astelia pumila and Donatia magellanica), which by their 
joint decay compose a thick bed of elastic peat. 

In Tierra del Fuego, above the region of woodland, the former 
of these eminently sociable plants is the chief agent in the production 
of peat. Fresh leaves are always succeeding one to the other round 
the central tap-root; the lower ones soon decay, and in tracing a root 
downwards in the peat, the leaves, yet holding their place, can be 
observed passing through every stage of decomposition, till the whole 
becomes blended in one confused mass. The Astelia is assisted by a 
few other plants, here and there a small creeping Myrtus (M. 
nummularia), with a woody stem like our cranberry and with a sweet 
berry, an Empetrum (E. rubrum), like our heath, a rush (Juncus 
grandiflorus), are nearly the only ones that grow on the swampy 
surface. These plants, though possessing a very close general re- 
semblance to the English species of the same genera, are different. 
In the more level parts of the country, the surface of the peat is 
broken up into little pools of water, which stand at different heights, 
and appear as if artificially excavated. Small streams of water, flow- 
ing underground, complete the disorganization of the vegetable 
matter, and consolidate the whole. 

2 By sweeping with my insect-net, I procured from these situations a considerable 
number of minute insects, of the family of Staphylinidae, and others allied to Pselaphus, 
and minute Hymenoptera. But the most characteristic family in number, both of in- 
dividuals and species, throughout the more open parts of Chiloe and Chonos is that 
of the Telephorida:. 


The climate of the southern part of America appears particularly 
favourable to the production of peat. In the Falkland Islands almost 
every kind of plant, even the coarse grass which covers the whole 
surface of the land, becomes converted into this substance: scarcely 
any situation checks its growth; some of the beds are as much as 
twelve feet thick, and the lower part becomes so solid when dry, 
that it will hardly burn. Although every plant lends its aid, yet in 
most parts the Astelia is the most efficient. It is rather a singular 
circumstance, as being so very different from what occurs in Europe, 
that I nowhere saw moss forming by its decay any portion of the 
peat in South America. With respect to the northern limit, at which 
the climate allows of that peculiar kind of slow decomposition which 
is necessary for its production, I believe that in Chiloe (lat. 41 to 
42), although there is much swampy ground, no well-characterized 
peat occurs: but in the Chonos Islands, three degrees farther south- 
ward, we have seen that it is abundant. On the eastern coast in La 
Plata (lat. 35) I was told by a Spanish resident who had visited 
Ireland, that he had often sought for this substance, but had never 
been able to find any. He showed me, as the nearest approach to it 
which he had discovered, a black peaty soil, so penetrated with roots 
as to allow of an extremely slow and imperfect combustion. 

The zoology of these broken islets of the Chonos Archipelago is, 
as might have been expected, very poor. Of quadrupeds two aquatic 
kinds are common. The Myopotamus Coyrjus (like a beaver, but 
with a round tail) is well known from its fine fur, which is an object 
of trade throughout the tributaries of La Plata. It here, however, ex- 
clusively frequents salt water; which same circumstance has been 
mentioned as sometimes occurring with the great rodent, the Capy- 
bara. A small sea-otter is very numerous; this animal does not feed 
exclusively on fish, but, like the seals, draws a large supply from a 
small red crab, which swims in shoals near the surface of the water. 
Mr. Bynoe saw one in Tierra del Fuego eating a cuttle-fish; and at 
Low's Harbour, another was killed in the act of carrying to its hole a 
large volute shell. At one place I caught in a trap a singular little 
mouse (M. brachiotis) ; it appeared common on several of the islets, 
but the Chilotans at Low's Harbour said that it was not found in all. 


What a succession of chances, 3 or what changes of level must have 
been brought into play, thus to spread these small animals through- 
out this broken archipelago! 

In all parts of Chiloe and Chonos, two very strange birds occur, 
which are allied to, and replace, the Turco and Tapacolo of central 
Chile. One is called by the inhabitants "Cheucau" (Pteroptochos 
rubecula) : it frequents the most gloomy and retired spots within the 
damp forests. Sometimes, although its cry may be heard close at 
hand, let a person watch ever so attentively he will not see the 
cheucau; at other times, let him stand motionless and the red-breasted 
little bird will approach within a few feet in the most familiar man- 
ner. It then busily hops about the entangled mass of rotting canes 
and branches, with its little tail cocked upwards. The cheucau is 
held in superstitious fear by the Chilotans, on account of its strange 
and varied cries. There are three very distinct cries: one is called 
"chiduco," and is an omen of good; another, "huitreu," which is 
extremely unfavourable; and a third, which I have forgotten. These 
words are given in imitation of the noises; and the natives are in 
some things absolutely governed by them. The Chilotans assuredly 
have chosen a most comical little creature for their prophet. An allied 
species, but rather larger, is called by the natives "Guid-guid" (Pter- 
optochos Tarnii), and by the English the barking-bird. This latter 
name is well given; for I defy any one at first to feel certain that a 
small dog is not yelping somewhere in the forest. Just as with the 
cheucau, a person will sometimes hear the bark close by, but in vain 
many endeavour by watching, and with still less chance by beating 
the bushes, to see the bird; yet at other times the guid-guid fearlessly 
comes near. Its manner of feeding and its general habits are very 
similar to those of the cheucau. 

On the coast 4 a small dusky-coloured bird (Opetiorhynchus Pata- 
gonicus) is very common. It is remarkable from its quiet habits; it 

3 It is said that some rapacious birds bring their prey alive to their nests. If so, 
in the course of centuries, every now and then, one might escape from the young 
birds. Some such agency is necessary, to account for the distribution of the smaller 
gnawing animals on islands not very near each other. 

4 1 may mention, as a proof of how great a difference there is between the seasons 
of the wooded and the open parts of this coast, that on September 2oth, in lat. 34, 
these birds had young ones in the nest, while among the Chonos Islands, three months 
later in the summer, they were only laying, the difference in latitude between these two 
iplaces being about 700 miles. 


lives entirely on the sea-beach, like a sandpiper. Besides these birds 
only few others inhabit this broken land. In my rough notes I de- 
scribe the strange noises, which, although frequently heard within 
these gloomy forests, yet scarcely disturb the general silence. The 
yelping of the guid-guid, and the sudden whew-whew of the cheucau, 
sometimes come from afar off, and sometimes from close at hand; 
the little black wren of Tierra del Fuego occasionally adds its cry; 
the creeper (Oxyurus) follows the intruder screaming and twitter- 
ing; the humming-bird may be seen every now and then darting 
from side to side, and emitting, like an insect, its shrill chirp; lastly, 
from the top of some lofty tree the indistinct but plaintive note of the 
white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher (Myiobius) may be noticed. From the 
great preponderance in most countries of certain common genera of 
birds, such as the finches, one feels at first surprised at meeting with 
the peculiar forms above enumerated, as the commonest birds in any 
district. In central Chile two of them, namely, the Oxyurus and 
Scytalopus, occur, although most rarely. When finding, as in this 
case, animals which seem to play so insignificant a part in the great 
scheme of nature, one is apt to wonder why they were created. 

But it should always be recollected, that in some other country 
perhaps they are essential members of society, or at some former 
period may have been so. If America south of 37 were sunk beneath 
the waters of the ocean, these two birds might continue to exist in 
central Chile for a long period, but it is very improbable that their 
numbers would increase. We should then see a case which must in- 
evitably have happened with very many animals. 

These southern seas are frequented by several species of Petrels: 
the largest kind, Procellaria gigantea, or nelly (quebrantahuesos, 
or break-bones, of the Spaniards), is a common bird, both in the 
inland channels and on the open sea. In its habits and manner of 
flight, there is a very close resemblance with the albatross; and as 
with the albatross, a person may watch it for hours together with- 
out seeing on what it feeds. The "break-bones" is, however, a 
rapacious bird, for it was observed by some of the officers at Port 
St. Antonio chasing a diver, which tried to escape by diving and 
flying, but was continually struck down, and at last killed by a 
blow on its head. At Port St. Julian these great petrels were seen 


killing and devouring young gulls. A second species (Puffinus 
cinereus), which is common to Europe, Cape Horn, and the coast 
of Peru, is of much smaller size than the P. gigantea, but, like it, 
of a dirty black colour. It generally frequents the inland sounds in 
very large flocks: I do not think I ever saw so many birds of any 
other sort together, as I once saw of these behind the island of 
Chiloe. Hundreds of thousands flew in an irregular line for several 
hours in one direction. When part of the flock settled on the water 
the surface was blackened, and a noise proceeded from them as of 
human beings talking in the distance. 

There are several other species of petrels, but I will only mention 
one other kind, the Pelacanoides Berardi, which offers an example 
of those extraordinary cases, of a bird evidently belonging to one 
well-marked family, yet both in its habits and structure allied to a 
very distinct tribe. This bird never leaves the quiet inland sounds. 
When disturbed it dives to a distance, and on coming to the sur- 
face, with the same movement takes flight. After flying by a rapid 
movement of its short wings for a space in a straight line, it drops, 
as if struck dead, and dives again. The form of its beak and nostrils, 
length of foot, and even the colouring of its plumage, show that this 
bird is a petrel: on the other hand, its short wings and consequent 
little power of flight, its form of body and shape of tail, the absence 
of a hind toe to its foot, its habit of diving, and its choice of situation, 
make it at first doubtful whether its relationship is not equally 
close with the auks. It would undoubtedly be mistaken for an auk, 
when seen from a distance, either on the wing, or when diving and 
quietly swimming about the retired channels of Tierra del Fuego. 


San Carlos, Chiloe Osorno in eruption, contemporaneously with Acon- 
cagua and Coseguina Ride to Cucao Impenetrable Forests Valdi via 
Indians Earthquake Concepcion Great Earthquake Rocks fis- 
sured Appearance of the former Towns The Sea Black and Boiling 
Direction of the Vibrations Stones twisted round Great Wave 
Permanent Elevation of the Land Area of Volcanic Phenomena 
The connection between the Elevatory and Eruptive Forces Cause of 
Earthquakes Slow Elevation of Mountain-chains. 

ON JANUARY the i5th we sailed from Low's Harbour, and 
three days afterwards anchored a second time in the bay 
of S. Carlos in Chiloe. On the night of the i9th the volcano 
of Osorno was in action. At midnight the sentry observed something 
like a large star, which gradually increased in size till about three 
o'clock, when it presented a very magnificent spectacle. By the aid 
of a glass, dark objects, in constant succession, were seen, in the 
midst of a great glare of red light, to be thrown up and to fall down. 
The light was sufficient to cast on the water a long bright reflection. 
Large masses of molten matter seem very commonly to be cast out 
of the craters in this part of the Cordillera. I was assured that when 
the Corcovado is in eruption, great masses are projected upwards 
and are seen to burst in the air, assuming many fantastical forms, 
such as trees: their size must be immense, for they can be distin- 
guished from the high land behind S. Carlos, which is no less than 
ninety-three miles from the Corcovado. In the morning the volcano 
became tranquil. 

I was surprised at hearing afterwards that Aconcagua in Chile, 480 
miles northwards, was in action on the same night; and still more 
surprised to hear that the great eruption of Coseguina (2700 miles 
north of Aconcagua), accompanied by an earthquake felt over a 
1000 miles, also occurred within six hours of this same time. This 
coincidence is the more remarkable, as Coseguina had been dormant 



for twenty-six years; and Aconcagua most rarely shows any signs of 
action. It is difficult even to conjecture whether this coincidence was 
accidental, or shows some subterranean connection. If Vesuvius, 
Etna, and Hecla in Iceland (all three relatively nearer each other 
than the corresponding points in South America), suddenly burst 
forth in eruption on the same night, the coincidence would be 
thought remarkable; but it is far more remarkable in this case, where 
the three vents fall on the same great mountain-chain, and where 
the vast plains along the entire eastern coast, and the upraised recent 
shells along more than 2000 miles on the western coast, show in 
how equable and connected a manner the elevatory forces have 

Captain Fitz Roy being anxious that some bearings should be 
taken on the outer coast of Chiloe, it was planned that Mr. King 
and myself should ride to Castro, and thence across the island to the 
Capella de Cucao, situated on the west coast. Having hired horses 
and a guide, we set out on the morning of the 22nd. We had not 
proceeded far, before we were joined by a woman and two boys, who 
were bent on the same journey. Every one on this road acts on a 
"hail fellow well met" fashion; and one may here enjoy the privilege, 
so rare in South America, of travelling without firearms. At first, 
the country consisted of a succession of hills and valleys: nearer to 
Castro it became very level. The road itself is a curious affair; it 
consists in its whole length, with the exception of very few parts, of 
great logs of wood, which are either broad and laid longitudinally, 
or narrow and placed transversely. In summer the road is not very 
bad; but in winter, when the wood is rendered slippery from rain, 
travelling is exceedingly difficult. At that time of the year, the 
ground on each side becomes a morass, and is often overflowed: 
hence it is necessary that the longitudinal logs should be fastened 
down by transverse poles, which are pegged on each side into the 
earth. These pegs render a fall from a horse dangerous, as the chance 
of alighting on one of them is not small. It is remarkable, however, 
how active custom has made the Chilotan horses. In crossing bad 
parts, where the logs had been displaced, they skipped from one to 
the other, almost with the quickness and certainty of a dog. On both 
hands the road is bordered by the lofty forest-trees, with their bases 


matted together by canes. When occasionally a long reach of this 
avenue could be beheld, it presented a curious scene of uniformity: 
the white line of logs, narrowing in perspective, became hidden by 
the gloomy forest, or terminated in a zigzag which ascended some 
steep hill. 

Although the distance from S. Carlos to Castro is only twelve 
leagues in a straight line, the formation of the road must have been 
a great labour. I was told that several people had formerly lost their 
lives in attempting to cross the forest. The first who succeeded was 
an Indian, who cut his way through the canes in eight days, and 
reached S. Carlos: he was rewarded by the Spanish government with 
a grant of land. During the summer, many of the Indians wander 
about the forests (but chiefly in the higher parts, where the woods 
are not quite so thick) in search of the half-wild cattle which live on 
the leaves of the cane and certain trees. It was one of these huntsmen 
who by chance discovered, a few years since, an English vessel, which 
had been wrecked on the outer coast. The crew were beginning to 
fail in provisions, and it is not probable that, without the aid of this 
man, they would ever have extricated themselves from these scarcely 
penetrable woods. As it was, one seaman died on the march, from 
fatigue. The Indians in these excursions steer by the sun; so that if 
there is a continuance of cloudy weather, they cannot travel. 

The day was beautiful, and the number of trees which were in full 
flower perfumed the air; yet even this could hardly dissipate the 
effects of the gloomy dampness of the forest. Moreover, the many 
dead trunks that stand like skeletons, never fail to give to these 
primeval woods a character of solemnity, absent in those of countries 
long civilized. Shortly after sunset we bivouacked for the night. Our 
female companion, who was rather good-looking, belonged to one of 
the most respectable families in Castro: she rode, however, astride, 
and without shoes or stockings. I was surprised at the total want of 
pride shown by her and her brother. They brought food with them, 
but at all our meals sat watching Mr. King and myself whilst eating, 
till we were fairly shamed into feeding the whole party. The night 
was cloudless; and while lying in our beds, we enjoyed the sight (and 
it is a high enjoyment) of the multitude of stars which illumined the 
darkness of the forest. 


January 2]rd. We rose early in the morning, and reached the 
pretty quiet town of Castro by two o'clock. The old governor had 
died since our last visit, and a Chileno was acting in his place. We 
had a letter of introduction to Don Pedro, whom we found exceed- 
ingly hospitable and kind, and more disinterested than is usual on 
this side of the continent. The next day Don Pedro procured us 
fresh horses, and offered to accompany us himself. We proceeded 
to the south generally following the coast, and passing through 
several hamlets, each with its large barn-like chapel built of wood. 
At Vilipilli, Don Pedro asked the commandant to give us a guide 
to Cucao. The old gentleman offered to come himself; but for a long 
time nothing would persuade him that two Englishmen really 
wished to go to such an out-of-the-way place as Cucao. We were thus 
accompanied by the two greatest aristocrats in the country, as was 
plainly to be seen in the manner of all the poorer Indians towards 
them. At Chonchi we struck across the island, following intricate 
winding paths, sometimes passing through magnificent forests, and 
sometimes through pretty cleared spots, abounding with corn and 
potato crops. This undulating woody country, partially cultivated, 
reminded me of the wilder parts of England, and therefore had to my 
eye a most fascinating aspect. At Vilinco, which is situated on the 
borders of the lake of Cucao, only a few fields were cleared; and all 
the inhabitants appeared to be Indians. This lake is twelve miles 
long, and runs in an east and west direction. From local circum- 
stances, the sea-breeze blows very regularly during the day, and 
during the night it falls calm: this has given rise to strange exaggera- 
tions, for the phenomenon, as described to us at S. Carlos, was quite 
a prodigy. 

The road to Cucao was so very bad that we determined to embark 
in a periagua. The commandant, in the most authoritative manner, 
ordered six Indians to get ready to pull us over, without deigning to 
tell them whether they would be paid. The periagua is a strange 
rough boat, but the crew were still stranger: I doubt if six uglier little 
men ever got into a boat together. They pulled, however, very well 
and cheerfully. The stroke-oarsman gabbled Indian, and uttered 
strange cries, much after the fashion of a pig-driver driving his pigs. 
We started with a light breeze against us, but yet reached the Capella 


de Cucao before it was late. The country on each side of the lake 
was one unbroken forest. In the same periagua with us, a cow was 
embarked. To get so large an animal into a small boat appears at 
first a difficulty, but the Indians managed it in a minute. They 
brought the cow alongside the boat, which was heeled towards her ; 
then placing two oars under her belly, with their ends resting on the 
gunwale, by the aid of these levers they fairly tumbled the poor beast 
heels over 'head into the bottom of the boat, and then lashed her 
down with ropes. At Cucao we found an uninhabited hovel (which 
is the residence of the padre when he pays this Capella a visit), where, 
lighting a fire, we cooked our supper, and were very comfortable. 

The district of Cucao is the only inhabited part on the whole west 
coast of Chiloe. It contains about thirty or forty Indian families, who 
are scattered along four or five miles of the shore. They are very 
much secluded from the rest of Chiloe, and have scarcely any sort of 
commerce, except sometimes in a little oil, which they get from seal- 
blubber. They are tolerably dressed in clothes of their own manu- 
facture, and they have plenty to eat. They seemed, however, 
discontented, yet humble to a degree which it was quite painful to 
witness. These feelings are, I think, chiefly to be attributed to the 
harsh and authoritative manner in which they are treated by their 
rulers. Our companions, although so very civil to us, behaved to the 
poor Indians as if they had been slaves, rather than free men. They 
ordered provisions and the use of their horses, without ever conde- 
scending to say how much, or indeed whether the owners should 
be paid at all. In the morning, being left alone with these poor 
people, we soon ingratiated oursel ves by presents of cigars and mate. 
A lump of white sugar was divided between all present, and tasted 
with the greatest curiosity. The Indians ended all their complaints 
by saying, "And it is only because we are poor Indians, and know 
nothing; but it was not so when we had a King." 

The next day after breakfast, we rode a few miles northward to 
Punta Huantamo. The road lay along a very broad beach, on which, 
even after so many fine days, a terrible surf was breaking. I was 
assured that after a heavy gale, the roar can be heard at night even at 
Castro, a distance of no less than twenty-one sea-miles across a hilly 
and wooded country. We had some difficulty in reaching the point, 


owing to the intolerably bad paths; for everywhere in the shade the 
ground soon becomes a perfect quagmire. The point itself is a bold 
rocky hill. It is covered by a plant allied, I believe, to Bromelia, and 
called by the inhabitants Chepones. In scrambling through the beds, 
our hands were very much scratched. I was amused by observing 
the precaution our Indian guide took, in turning up his trousers, 
thinking that they were more delicate than his own hard skin. This 
plant bears a fruit, in shape like an artichoke, in which a number 
of seed-vessels are packed : these contain a pleasant sweet pulp, here 
much esteemed. I saw at Low's Harbour the Chilotans making 
chichi, or cider, with this fruit: so true is it, as Humboldt remarks, 
that almost everywhere man finds means of preparing some kind of 
beverage from the vegetable kingdom. The savages, however, of 
Tierra del Fuego, and I believe of Australia, have not advanced thus 
far in the arts. 

The coast to the north of Punta Huantamo is exceedingly rugged 
and broken, and is fronted by many breakers, on which the sea is 
eternally roaring. Mr. King and myself were anxious to return, 
if it had been possible, on foot along this coast; but even the Indians 
said it was quite impracticable. We were told that men have crossed 
by striking directly through the woods from Cucao to S. Carlos, but 
never by the coast. On these expeditions, the Indians carry with them 
only roasted corn, and of this they eat sparingly twice a day. 

26th. Re-embarking in the periagua, we returned across the lake, 
and then mounted our horses. The whole of Chiloe took advantage 
of this week of unusually fine weather, to clear the ground by burn- 
ing. In every direction volumes of smoke were curling upwards. Al- 
though the inhabitants were so assiduous in setting fire to every part 
of the wood, yet I did not see a single fire which they had succeeded 
in making extensive. We dined with our friend the commandant, 
and did not reach Castro till after dark. The next morning we 
started very early. After having ridden for some time, we obtained 
from the brow of a steep hill an extensive view (and it is a rare 
thing on this road) of the great forest. Over the horizon of trees, 
the volcano of Corcovado, and the great flat-topped one to the north, 
stood out in proud pre-eminence: scarcely another peak in the long 
range showed its snowy summit. I hope it will be long before I 


forget this farewell view of the magnificent Cordillera fronting 
Chiloe. At night we bivouacked under a cloudless sky, and the 
next morning reached S. Carlos. We arrived on the right day, for 
before evening heavy rain commenced. 

February qth. Sailed from Chiloe. During the last week I made 
several short excursions. One was to examine a great bed of now- 
existing shells, elevated 350 feet above the level of the sea: from 
among these shells, large forest-trees were growing. Another ride 
was to P. Huechucucuy. I had with me a guide who knew the 
country far too well; for he would pertinaciously tell me endless 
Indian names for every little point, rivulet, and creek. In the same 
manner as in Tierra del Fuego, the Indian language appears singu- 
larly well adapted for attaching names to the most trivial features of 
the land. I believe every one was glad to say farewell to Chiloe; 
yet if we could forget the gloom and ceaseless rain of winter, Chiloe 
might pass for a charming island. There is also something very 
attractive in the simplicity and humble politeness of the poor 

We steered northward along shore, but owing to thick weather did 
not reach Valdivia till the night of the 8th. The next morning the 
boat proceeded to the town, which is distant about ten miles. We 
followed the course of the river, occasionally passing a few hovels, 
and patches of ground cleared out of the otherwise unbroken 
forest; and sometimes meeting a canoe with an Indian family. The 
town is situated on the low banks of the stream, and is so completely 
buried in a wood of apple-trees that the streets are merely paths in an 
orchard. I have never seen any country, where apple-trees appeared 
to thrive so well as in this damp part of South America: on the 
borders of the roads there were many young trees evidently self- 
grown. In Chiloe the inhabitants possess a marvellously short 
method of making an orchard. At the lower part of almost every 
branch, small, conical, brown, wrinkled points project: these are 
always ready to change into roots, as may sometimes be seen, where 
any mud has been accidentally splashed against the tree. A branch 
as thick as a man's thigh is chosen in the early spring, and is cut off 
just beneath a group of these points, all the smaller branches are 
lopped off, and it is then placed about two feet deep in the ground. 


During the ensuing summer the stump throws out long shoots, and 
sometimes even bears fruit: I was shown one which had produced 
as many as twenty-three apples, but this was thought very unusual. 
In the third season the stump is changed (as I have myself seen) 
into a well-wooded tree, loaded with fruit. An old man near Val- 
divia illustrated his motto, "Necesidad es la madre del invention," 
by giving an account of the several useful things he manufactured 
from his apples. After making cider, and likewise wine, he extracted 
from the refuse a white and finely flavoured spirit; by another process 
he procured a sweet treacle, or, as he called it, honey. His children 
and pigs seemed almost to live, during this season of the year, in his 

February nth. I set out with a guide on a short ride, in which, 
however, I managed to see singularly little, either of the geology of 
the country or of its inhabitants. There is not much cleared land near 
Valdivia: after crossing a river at the distance of a few miles, we 
entered the forest, and then passed only one miserable hovel, before 
reaching our sleeping-place for the night. The short difference in 
latitude, of 150 miles, has given a new aspect to the forest, compared 
with that of Chiloe. This is owing to a slightly different proportion 
in the kinds of trees. The evergreens do not appear to be quite so 
numerous, and the forest in consequence has a brighter tint. As in 
Chiloe, the lower parts are matted together by canes: here also 
another kind (resembling the bamboo of Brazil and about twenty 
feet in height) grows in clusters, and ornaments the banks of some 
of the streams in a very pretty manner. It is with this plant that the 
Indians make their chuzos, or long tapering spears. Our resting- 
house was so dirty that I preferred sleeping outside: on these 
journeys the first night is generally very uncomfortable, because one 
is not accustomed to the tickling and biting of the fleas. I am sure, 
in the morning, there was not a space on my legs the size of a 
shilling which had not its little red mark where the flea had 

1 2th. We continued to ride through the uncleared forest; only 
occasionally meeting an Indian on horseback, or a troop of fine mules 
bringing alerce-planks and corn from the southern plains. In the 
afternoon one of the horses knocked up : we were then on a brow of 


a hill, which commanded a fine view of the Llanos. The view of 
these open plains was very refreshing, after being hemmed in and 
buried in the wilderness of trees. The uniformity of a forest soon 
becomes very wearisome. This west coast makes me remember with 
pleasure the free, unbounded plains of Patagonia; yet, with the true 
spirit of contradiction, I cannot forget how sublime is the silence 
of the forest. The Llanos are the most fertile and thickly peopled 
parts of the country, as they possess the immense advantage of being 
nearly free from trees. Before leaving the forest we crossed some flat 
little lawns, around which single trees stood, as in an English park: 
I have often noticed with surprise, in wooded undulatory districts, 
that the quite level parts have been destitute of trees. On account of 
the tired horse, I determined to stop at the Mission of Cudico, to 
the friar of which I had a letter of introduction. Cudico is an inter- 
mediate district between the forest and the Llanos. There are a good 
many cottages, with patches of corn and potatoes, nearly all belong- 
ing to Indians. The tribes dependent on Valdivia are "reducidos y 
cristianos." The Indians farther northward, about Arauco and 
Imperial, are still very wild, and not converted; but they have all 
much intercourse with the Spaniards. The padre said that the Chris- 
tian Indians did not much like coming to mass, but that otherwise 
they showed respect for religion. The greatest difficulty is in making 
them observe the ceremonies of marriage. The wild Indians take as 
many wives as they can support, and a cacique will sometimes have 
more than ten: on entering his house, the number may be told by 
that of the separate fires. Each wife lives a week in turn with the 
cacique; but all are employed in weaving ponchos, etc., for his profit. 
To be the wife of a cacique, is an honour much sought after by the 
Indian women. 

The men of all these tribes wear a coarse woolen poncho: those 
south of Valdivia wear short trousers, and those north of it a petti- 
coat, like the chilipa of the Gauchos. All have their long hair bound 
by a scarlet fillet, but with no other covering on their heads. These 
Indians are good-sized men; their cheek-bones are prominent, and in 
general appearance they resemble the great American family to 
which they belong; but their physiognomy seemed to me to be 
slightly different from that of any other tribe which I had before 


seen. Their expression is generally grave, and even austere, and 
possesses much character: this may pass either for honest bluntness 
or fierce determination. The long black hair, the grave and much- 
lined features, and the dark complexion, called to my mind old 
portraits of James I. On the road we met with none of that humble 
politeness so universal in Chiloe. Some gave their "mari-mari" 
(good morning) with promptness, but the greater number did not 
seem inclined to offer any salute. This independence of manners 
is probably a consequence of their long wars, and the repeated 
victories which they alone, of all the tribes in America, have gained 
over the Spaniards. 

I spent the evening very pleasantly, talking with the padre. He 
was exceedingly kind and hospitable; and coming from Santiago, 
had contrived to surround himself with some few comforts. Being 
a man of some little education, he bitterly complained of the total 
want of society. With no particular zeal for religion, no business or 
pursuit, how completely must this man's life be wasted! The next 
day, on our return, we met seven very wild-looking Indians, of 
whom some were caciques that had just received from the Chilian 
government their yearly small stipend for having long remained 
faithful. They were fine-looking men, and they rode one after the 
other, with most gloomy faces. An old cacique, who headed them, 
had been, I suppose, more excessively drunk than the rest, for he 
seemed extremely grave and very crabbed. Shortly before this, two 
Indians joined us, who were travelling from a distant mission to 
Valdivia concerning some lawsuit. One was a good-humoured old 
man, but from his wrinkled beardless face looked more like an old 
woman than a man. I frequently presented both of them with cigars; 
and though ready to receive them, and I dare say grateful, they would 
hardly condescend to thank me. A Chilotan Indian would have 
taken off his hat, and given his "Dios le page!" The travelling was 
very tedious, both from the badness of the roads, and from the num- 
ber of great fallen trees, which it was necessary either to leap over or 
to avoid by making long circuits. We slept on the road, and next 
morning reached Valdivia, whence I proceeded on board. 

A few days afterwards I crossed the bay with a party of officers, 
and landed near the fort called Niebla. The buildings were in a 


most ruinous state, and the gun-carriages quite rotten. Mr. Wickham 
remarked to the commanding officer, that with one discharge they 
would certainly all fall to pieces. The poor man, trying to put a 
good face upon it, gravely replied, "No, I am sure, sir, they would 
stand two!" The Spaniards must have intended to have made this 
place impregnable. There is now lying in the middle of the court- 
yard a little mountain of mortar, which rivals in hardness the rock 
on which it is placed. It was brought from Chile, and cost 7000 
dollars. The revolution having broken out, prevented its being 
applied to any purpose, and now it remains a monument of the fallen 
greatness of Spain. 

I wanted to go to a house about a mile and a half distant, but my 
guide said it was quite impossible to penetrate the wood in a straight 
line. He offered, however, to lead me, by following obscure cattle- 
tracks, the shortest way: the walk, nevertheless, took no less than 
three hours! This man is employed in hunting strayed cattle; yet, 
well as he must know the woods, he was not long since lost for two 
whole days, and had nothing to eat. These facts convey a good 
idea of the impracticability of the forests of these countries. A 
question often occurred to me how long does any vestige of a fallen 
tree remain? This man showed me one which a party of fugitive 
royalists had cut down fourteen years ago; and taking this as a cri- 
terion, I should think a bole a foot and a half in diameter would in 
thirty years be changed into a heap of mould. 

February 2oth. This day has been memorable in the annals of 
Valdivia, for the most severe earthquake experienced by the oldest 
inhabitant. I happened to be on shore, and was lying down in the 
wood to rest myself. It came on suddenly, and lasted two minutes, 
but the time appeared much longer. The rocking of the ground was 
very sensible. The undulations appeared to my companion and my- 
self to come from due east, whilst others thought they proceeded 
from south-west : this shows how difficult it sometimes is to perceive 
the directions of the vibrations. There was no difficulty in standing 
upright, but the motion made me almost giddy: it was something 
like the movement of a vessel in a little cross-ripple, or still more 
like that felt by a person skating over thin ice, which bends under 
the weight of his body. 


A bad earthquake at once destroys our oldest associations: the 
earth, the very emblem of solidity, has moved beneath our feet like a 
thin crust over a fluid; one second of time has created in the mind 
a strange idea of insecurity, which hours of reflection would not 
have produced. In the forest, as a breeze moved the trees, I felt 
only the earth tremble, but saw no other effect. Captain Fitz Roy 
and some officers were at the town during the shock, and there the 
scene was more striking; for although the houses, from being built 
of wood, did not fall, they were violently shaken, and the boards 
creaked and rattled together. The people rushed out of doors in the 
greatest alarm. It is these accompaniments that create that perfect 
horror of earthquakes, experienced by all who have thus seen, as well 
as felt, their effects. Within the forest it was a deeply interesting, 
but by no means an awe-exciting phenomenon. The tides were very 
curiously affected. The great shock took place at the time of low 
water; and an old woman who was on the beach told me that the 
water flowed very quickly, but not in great waves, to high-water 
mark, and then as quickly returned to its proper level; this was also 
evident by the line of wet sand. The same kind of quick but quiet 
movement in the tide happened a few years since at Chiloe, during 
a slight earthquake, and created much causeless alarm. In the course 
of the evening there were many weaker shocks, which seemed to 
produce in the harbour the most complicated currents, and some 
of great strength. 

March 4th. We entered the harbour of Concepcion. While the 
ship was beating up to the anchorage, I landed on the island of 
Quiriquina. The mayor-domo of the estate quickly rode down to 
tell me the terrible news of the great earthquake of the 20th: 
"That not a house in Concepcion or Talcahuano (the port) was 
standing; that seventy villages were destroyed; and that a great 
wave had almost washed away the ruins of Talcahuano." Of this 
latter statement I soon saw abundant proofs the whole coast being 
strewed over with timber and furniture as if a thousand ships had 
been wrecked. Besides chairs, tables, book-shelves, etc., in great 
numbers, there were several roofs of cottages, which had been trans- 
ported almost whole. The storehouses at Talcahuano had been burst 


open, and great bags of cotton, yerba, and other valuable merchan- 
dise were scattered on the shore. During my walk round the island, 
I observed that numerous fragments of rock, which, from the ma- 
rine productions adhering to them, must recently have been lying 
in deep water, had been cast up high on the beach; one of these 
was six feet long, three broad, and two thick. 

The island itself as plainly showed the overwhelming power of 
the earthquake, as the beach did that of the consequent great wave. 
The ground in many parts was fissured in north and south lines, 
perhaps caused by the yielding of the parallel and steep sides of this 
narrow island. Some of the fissures near the cliffs were a yard wide. 
Many enormous masses had already fallen on the beach; and the 
inhabitants thought that when the rains commenced far greater 
slips would happen. The effect of the vibration on the hard primary 
slate, which composes the foundation of the island, was still more 
curious: the superficial parts of some narrow ridges were as com- 
pletely shivered as if they had been blasted by gunpowder. This 
effect, which was rendered conspicuous by the fresh fractures and 
displaced soil, must be confined to near the surface, for otherwise 
there would not exist a block of solid rock throughout Chile; nor 
is this improbable, as it is known that the surface of a vibrating body 
is affected differently from the central part. It is, perhaps, owing to 
this same reason, that earthquakes do not cause quite such terrific 
havoc within deep mines as would be expected. I believe this con- 
vulsion has been more effectual in lessening the size of the island of 
Quinquina, than the ordinary wear-and-tear of the sea and weather 
during the course of a whole century. 

The next day I landed at Talcahuano, and afterwards rode to 
Concepcion. Both towns presented the most awful yet interesting 
spectacle I ever beheld. To a person who had formerly known them, 
it possibly might have been still more impressive; for the ruins 
were so mingled together, and the whole scene possessed so little 
the air of a habitable place, that it was scarcely possible to imagine 
its former condition. The earthquake commenced at half-past eleven 
o'clock in the forenoon. If it had happened in the middle of the 
night, the greater number of the inhabitants (which in this one 
province must amount to many thousands) must have perished, 


instead of less than a hundred : as it was, the invariable practice of 
running out of doors at the first trembling of the ground, alone 
saved them. In Concepcion each house, or row of houses, stood 
by itself, a heap or line of ruins; but in Talcahuano, owing to the 
great wave, little more than one layer of bricks, tiles, and timber, 
with here and there part of a wall left standing, could be distin- 
guished. From this circumstance Concepcion, although not so com- 
pletely desolated, was a more terrible, and if I may so call it, pic- 
turesque sight. The first shock was very sudden. The mayor-domo 
at Quinquina told me, that the first notice he received of it, was 
finding both the horse he rode and himself, rolling together on the 
ground. Rising up, he was again thrown down. He also told me 
that some cows which were standing on the steep side of the island 
were rolled into the sea. The great wave caused the destruction of 
many cattle; on one low island, near the head of the bay, seventy 
animals were washed off and drowned. It is generally thought that 
this has been the worst earthquake ever recorded in Chile; but as 
the very severe ones occur only after long intervals, this cannot easily 
be known; nor indeed would a much worse shock have made any 
difference, for the ruin was now complete. Innumerable small 
tremblings followed the great earthquake, and within the first 
twelve days no less than three hundred were counted. 

After viewing Concepcion, I cannot understand how the greater 
number of inhabitants escaped unhurt. The houses in many parts 
fell outwards; thus forming in the middle of the streets little hillocks 
of brickwork and rubbish. Mr. Rouse, the English consul, told us 
that he was at breakfast when the first movement warned him to 
run out. He had scarcely reached the middle of the court-yard, when 
one side of his house came thundering down. He retained presence 
of mind to remember, that if he once got on the top of that part 
which had already fallen, he would be safe. Not being able from 
the motion of the ground to stand, he crawled up on his hands and 
knees; and no sooner had he ascended this little eminence, than the 
other side of the house fell in, the great beams sweeping close in 
front of his head. With his eyes blinded, and his mouth choked with 
the cloud of dust which darkened the sky, at last he gained the 
street. As shock succeeded shock, at the interval of a few minutes, 


no one dared approach the shattered ruins; and no one knew whether 
his dearest friends and relations were not perishing from the want 
of help. Those who had saved any property were obliged to keep 
a constant watch, for thieves prowled about, and at each little trem- 
bling of the ground, with one hand they beat their breasts and cried 
"Misericordia!" and then with the other filched what they could 
from the ruins. The thatched roofs fell over the fires, and flames 
burst forth in all parts. Hundreds knew themselves ruined, and 
few had the means of providing food for the day. 

Earthquakes alone are sufficient to destroy the prosperity of any 
country. If beneath England the now inert subterranean forces 
should exert those powers, which most assuredly in former geological 
ages they have exerted, how completely would the entire condition 
of the country be changed! What would become of the lofty houses, 
thickly packed cities, great manufactories, the beautiful public and 
private edifices ? If the new period of disturbance were first to com- 
mence by some great earthquake in the dead of the night, how 
terrific would be the carnage! England would at once be bankrupt; 
all papers, records, and accounts would from that moment be lost. 
Government being unable to collect the taxes, and failing to main- 
tain its authority, the hand of violence and rapine would remain 
uncontrolled. In every large town famine would go forth, pestilence 
and death following in its train. 

Shortly after the shock, a great wave was seen from the distance 
of three or four miles, approaching in the middle of the bay with a 
smooth outline; but along the shore it tore up cottages and trees, as 
it swept onwards with irresistible force. At the head of the bay it 
broke in a fearful line of white breakers, which rushed up to a 
height of 23 vertical feet above the highest spring-tides. Their force 
must have been prodigious; for at the Fort a cannon with its car- 
riage, estimated at four tons in weight, was moved 15 feet inwards. 
A schooner was left in the midst of the ruins, 200 yards from the 
beach. The first wave was followed by two others, which in their 
retreat carried away a vast wreck of floating objects. In one part of 
the bay, a ship was pitched high and dry on shore, was carried ofT, 
again driven on shore, and again carried off. In another part, two 
large vessels anchored near together were whirled about, and their 


cables were thrice wound round each other; though anchored at a 
depth of 36 feet, they were for some minutes aground. The great 
wave must have travelled slowly, for the inhabitants of Talcahuano 
had time to run up the hills behind the town; and some sailors 
pulled out seaward, trusting successfully to their boat riding securely 
over the swell, if they could reach it before it broke. One old woman 
with a little boy, four or five years old, ran into a boat, but there 
was nobody to row it out : the boat was consequently dashed against 
an anchor and cut in twain; the old woman was drowned, but the 
child was picked up some hours afterwards clinging to the wreck. 
Pools of salt-water were still standing amidst the ruins of the houses, 
and children, making boats with old tables and chairs, appeared as 
happy as their parents were miserable. It was, however, exceedingly 
interesting to observe, how much more active and cheerful all ap- 
peared than could have been expected. It was remarked with much 
truth, that from the destruction being universal, no one individual 
was humbled more than another, or could suspect his friends of 
coldness that most grievous result of the loss of wealth. Mr. Rouse, 
and a large party whom he kindly took under his protection, lived 
for the first week in a garden beneath some apple-trees. At first 
they were as merry as if it had been a picnic; but soon afterwards 
heavy rain caused much discomfort, for they were absolutely with- 
out shelter. 

In Captain Fitz Roy's excellent account of the earthquake, it is 
said that two explosions, one like a column of smoke and another 
like the blowing of a great whale, were seen in the bay. The water 
also appeared everywhere to be boiling; and it "became black, and 
exhaled a most disagreeable sulphureous smell." These latter cir- 
cumstances were observed in the Bay of Valparaiso during the 
earthquake of 1822; they may, I think, be accounted for, by the 
disturbance of the mud at the bottom of the sea containing organic 
matter in decay. In the Bay of Callao, during a calm day, I noticed, 
that as the ship dragged her cable over the bottom, its course was 
marked by a line of bubbles. The lower orders in Talcahuano 
thought that the earthquake was caused by some old Indian women, 
who two years ago, being offended, stopped the volcano of Antuco. 
This silly belief is curious, because it shows that experience has 


taught them to observe, that there exists a relation between the sup- 
pressed action of the volcanos, and the trembling of the ground. It 
was necessary to apply the witchcraft to the point where their per- 
ception of cause and effect failed; and this was the closing of the 
volcanic vent. This belief is the more singular in this particular 
instance, because, according to Captain Fitz Roy, there is reason to 
believe that Antuco was noways affected. 

The town of Concepcion was built in the usual Spanish fashion, 
with all the streets running at right angles to each other; one set 
ranging S.W. by W., and the other set N.W. by N. The walls in 
the former direction certainly stood better than those in the latter; 
the greater number of the masses of brickwork were thrown down 
towards the N.E. Both these circumstances perfectly agree with the 
general idea, of the undulations having come from the S.W., in 
which quarter subterranean noises were also heard; for it is evident 
that the walls running S.W. and N.E. which presented their ends 
to the point whence the undulations came, would be much less 
likely to fall than those walls which, running N.W. and S.E., must 
in their whole lengths have been at the same instant thrown out of 
the perpendicular; for the undulations, coming from the S.W., must 
have extended in N.W. and S.E. waves, as they passed under the 
foundations. This may be illustrated by placing books edgeways 
on a carpet, and then, after the manner suggested by Michell, imi- 
tating the undulations of an earthquake: it will be found that they 
fall with more or less readiness, according as their direction more 
or less nearly coincides with the line of the waves. The fissures in 
the ground generally, though not uniformly, extended in a S.E. 
and N.W. direction, and therefore corresponded to the lines of un- 
dulation or of principal flexure. Bearing in mind all these circum- 
stances, which so clearly point to the S.W. as the chief focus of 
disturbance, it is a very interesting fact that the island of S. Maria, 
situated in that quarter, was, during the general uplifting of the 
land, raised to nearly three times the height of any other part of 
the coast. 

The different resistance offered by the walls, according to their 
direction, was well exemplified in the case of the Cathedral. The 
side which fronted the N.E. presented a grand pile of ruins, in the 


midst of which door-cases and masses of timber stood up, as if float- 
ing in a stream. Some of the angular blocks of brickwork were of 
great dimensions; and they were rolled to a distance on the level 
plaza, like fragments of rock at the base of some high mountain. 
The side walls (running S.W. and N.E.), though exceedingly frac- 
tured, yet remained standing; but the vast buttresses (at right angles 
to them, and therefore parallel to the walls that fell) were in many 
cases cut clean off, as if by a chisel, and hurled to the ground. Some 
square ornaments on the coping of these same walls, were moved by 
the earthquake into a diagonal position. A similar circumstance was 
observed after an earthquake at Valparaiso, Calabria, and other 
places, including some of the ancient Greek temples. 1 This twist- 
ing displacement, at first appears to indicate a vorticose movement 
beneath each point thus affected; but this is highly improbable. May 
it not be caused by a tendency in each stone to arrange itself in 
some particular position, with respect to the lines of vibration, 
in a manner somewhat similar to pins on a sheet of paper when 
shaken? Generally speaking, arched doorways or windows stood 
much better than any other part of the buildings. Nevertheless, a 
poor lame old man, who had been in the habit, during trifling 
shocks, of crawling to a certain doorway, was this time crushed 
to pieces. 

I have not attempted to give any detailed description of the ap- 
pearance of Concepcion, for I feel that it is quite impossible to 
convey the mingled feelings which I experienced. Several of the 
officers visited it before me, but their strongest language failed to 
give a just idea of the scene of desolation. It is a bitter and humiliat- 
ing thing to see works, which have cost man so much time and 
labour, overthrown in one minute; yet compassion for the in- 
habitants was almost instantly banished, by the surprise in seeing a 
state of things produced in a moment of time, which one was accus- 
tomed to attribute to a succession of ages. In my opinion, we have 
scarcely beheld, since leaving England, any sight so deeply interest- 

In almost every severe earthquake, the neighbouring waters of 

1 M. Arago in L'Institut, 1839, p. 337. See also Miers's Chile, vol. i. p. 392; also 
Lyell's Principles of Geology, chap, xv., book ii. 


the sea are said to have been greatly agitated. The disturbance 
seems generally, as in the case of Concepcion, to have been of two 
kinds : first, at the instant of the shock, the water swells high up on 
the beach with a gentle motion, and then as quietly retreats; 
secondly, some time afterwards, the whole 'body of the sea retires 
from the coast, and then returns in waves of overwhelming force. 
The first movement seems to be an immediate consequence of the 
earthquake affecting differently a fluid and a solid, so that their 
respective levels are slightly deranged: but the second case is a far 
more important phenomenon. During most earthquakes, and espe- 
cially during those on the west coast of America, it is certain that 
the first great movement of the waters has been a retirement. Some 
authors have attempted to explain this, by supposing that the water 
retains its level, whilst the land oscillates upwards; but surely the 
water close to the land, even on a rather steep coast, would partake 
of the motion of the bottom: moreover, as urged by Mr. Lyell, 
similar movements of the sea have occurred at islands far distant 
from the chief line of disturbance, as was the case with Juan Fer- 
nandez during this earthquake, and with Madeira during the famous 
Lisbon shock. I suspect (but the subject is a very obscure one) that 
a wave, however produced, first draws the water from the shore, on 
which it is advancing to break: I have observed that this happens 
with the little waves from the paddles of a steam-boat. It is re- 
markable that whilst Talcahuano and Callao (near Lima), both 
situated at the head of large shallow bays, have suffered during 
every severe earthquake from great waves, Valparaiso, seated close to 
the edge of profoundly deep water, has never been overwhelmed, 
though so often shaken by the severest shocks. From the great wave 
not immediately following the earthquake, but sometimes after the 
interval of even half an hour, and from distant islands being affected 
similarly with the coasts near the focus of the disturbance, it ap- 
pears that the wave first rises in the offing; and as this is of general 
occurrence, the cause must be general: I suspect we must look to 
the line, where the less disturbed waters of the deep ocean join the 
water nearer the coast, which has partaken of the movements of 
the land, as the place where the great wave is first generated; it 
would also appear that the wave is larger or smaller, according to the 


extent of shoal water which has been agitated together with the 
bottom on which it rested. 

The most remarkable effect of this earthquake was the permanent 
elevation of the land; it would probably be far more correct to 
speak of it as the cause. There can be no doubt that the land round 
the Bay of Concepcion was upraised two or three feet; but it deserves 
notice, that owing to the wave having obliterated the old lines of 
tidal action on the sloping sandy shores, I could discover no evidence 
of this fact, except in the united testimony of the inhabitants, that 
one little rocky shoal, now exposed, was formerly covered with water. 
At the island of S. Maria (about thirty miles distant) the elevation 
was greater; on one part, Captain Fitz Roy found beds of putrid 
mussel-shells still adhering to the rocf(s, ten feet above high-water 
mark: the inhabitants had formerly dived at lower-water spring- 
tides for these shells. The elevation of this province is particularly 
interesting, from its having been the theatre of several other violent 
earthquakes, and from the vast numbers of sea-shells scattered over 
the land, up to a height of certainly 600, and I believe, of 1000 feet. 
At Valparaiso, as I have remarked, similar shells are found at the 
height of 1300 feet: it is hardly possible to doubt that this great 
elevation has been effected by successive small uprisings, such as 
that which accompanied or caused the earthquake of -this year, and 
likewise by an insensibly slow rise, which is certainly in progress on 
some parts of this coast. 

The island of Juan Fernandez, 360 miles to the N.E., was, at the 
time of the great shock of the 2oth, violently shaken, so that the 
trees beat against each other, and a volcano burst forth under water 
close to the shore: these facts are remarkable because this island, 
during the earthquake of 1751, was then also affected more violently 
than other places at an equal distance from Concepcion, and 
this seems to show some subterranean connection between these two 
points. Chiloe, about 340 miles southward of Concepcion, appears 
to have been shaken more strongly than the intermediate district 
of Valdivia, where the volcano of Villarica was noways affected, 
whilst in the Cordillera in front of Chiloe, two of the volcanos burst 
forth at the same instant in violent action. These two volcanos, and 


some neighbouring ones, continued for a long time in eruption, and 
ten months afterwards were again influenced by an earthquake at 
Concepcion. Some men, cutting wood near the base of one of these 
volcanos, did not perceive the shock of the 2oth, although the whole 
surrounding Province was then trembling; here we have an eruption 
relieving and taking the place of an earthquake, as would have hap- 
pened at Concepcion, according to the belief of the lower orders, if 
the volcano at Antuco had not been closed by witchcraft. Two years 
and three-quarters afterwards, Valdivia and Chiloe were again 
shaken, more violently than on the 2Oth, and an island in the Chonos 
Archipelago was permanently elevated more than eight feet. It 
will give a better idea of the scale of these phenomena, if (as in the 
case of the glaciers) we suppose them to have taken place at cor- 
responding distances in Europe: then would the land from the 
North Sea to the Mediterranean have been violently shaken, and 
at the same instant of time a large tract of the eastern coast of Eng- 
land would have been permanently elevated, together with some 
outlying islands, a train of volcanos on the coast of Holland would 
have burst forth in action, and an eruption taken place at the bottom 
of the sea, near the northern extremity of Ireland and lastly, the 
ancient vents of Auvergne, Cantal, and Mont d'Or would each have 
sent up to the sky a dark column of smoke, and have long remained 
in fierce action. Two years and three-quarters afterwards, France, 
from its centre to the English Channel, would have been again 
desolated by an earthquake, and an island permanently upraised 
in the Mediterranean. 

The space, from under which volcanic matter on the 2oth was 
actually erupted, is 720 miles in one line, and 400 miles in another 
line at right angles to the first: hence, in all probability, a sub- 
terranean lake of lava is 'here stretched out, of nearly double the 
area of the Black Sea. From the intimate and complicated manner 
in which the elevatory and eruptive forces were shown to be con- 
nected during this train of phenomena, we may confidently come to 
the conclusion, that the forces which slowly and by little starts uplift 
continents, and those which at successive periods pour forth volcanic 
matter from open orifices, are identical. From many reasons, I 
believe that the frequent quakings of the earth on this line of coast 


are caused by the rending of the strata, necessarily consequent on the 
tension of the land when upraised, and their injection by fluidified 
rock. This rending and injection would, if repeated often enough 
(and we know that earthquakes repeatedly affect the same areas in 
the same manner), form a chain of hills; and the linear island of 
S. Mary, which was upraised thrice -the height of the neighbouring 
country, seems to be undergoing this process. I believe that the solid 
axis of a mountain differs in its manner of formation from a vol- 
canic hill only in the molten stone having been repeatedly injected, 
instead of having been repeatedly ejected. Moreover, I believe that 
it is impossible to explain the structure of great mountain-chains, 
such as that of the Cordillera, where the strata, capping the 
injected axis of plutonic rock, have been thrown on their edges along 
several parallel and neighbouring lines of elevation, except on this 
view of the rock of the axis having been repeatedly injected, after 
intervals sufficiently long to allow the upper parts or wedges to cool 
and become solid; for if the strata had been thrown into their 
present highly inclined, vertical, and even inverted positions, by a 
single blow, the very bowels of the earth would have gushed out; 
and instead of beholding abrupt mountain-axes of rock solidified 
under great pressure, deluges of lava would have flowed out at in- 
numerable points on every line of elevation. 2 

2 For a full account of the volcanic phenomena which accompanied the earthquake 
of the aoth, and for the conclusions deducible from them, I must refer to Volume V. 
of the Geological Transactions. 


Valparaiso Portillo Pass Sagacity of Mules Mountain-torrents 
Mines, how discovered Proofs of the gradual Elevation of the Cordil- 
lera Effect of Snow on Rocks Geological Structure of the two main 
Ranges, their distinct Origin and Upheaval Great Subsidence Red 
Snow Winds Pinnacles of Snow Dry and clear Atmosphere 
Electricity Pampas Zoology of the opposite Side of the Andes 
LocustsGreat Bugs Mendoza Uspallata Pass Silicified Trees 
buried as they grew Incas Bridge Badness of the Passes exaggerated 
Cumbre Casuchas Valparaiso. 

71 /fARCH jth, /#J5. We stayed three days at Concepcion 
I m/f an d then sailed for Valparaiso. The wind being north- 
^ wJL erly, we only reached the mouth of the harbour of Con- 
cepcion before it was dark. Being very near the land, and a fog com- 
ing on, the anchor was dropped. Presently a large American whaler 
appeared alongside of us; and we heard the Yankee swearing at his 
men to keep quiet, whilst he listened for the breakers. Captain Fitz 
Roy hailed him, in a loud clear voice, to anchor where he then was. 
The poor man must have thought the voice came from the shore: 
such a Babel of cries issued at once from the ship every one hal- 
looing out, "Let go the anchor! veer cable! shorten sail!" It was the 
most laughable thing I ever heard. If the ship's crew had been 
all captains, and no men, there could not have been a greater uproar 
of orders. We afterwards found that the mate stuttered: I suppose 
all hands were assisting him in giving his orders. 

On the nth we anchored at Valparaiso, and two days afterwards 
I set out to cross the Cordillera. I proceeded to Santiago, where Mr. 
Caldcleugh most kindly assisted me in every possible way in making 
the little preparations which were necessary. In this part of Chile 
there are two passes across the Andes to Mendoza: the one most 
commonly used namely, that of Aconcagua or Uspallata is situ- 
ated some way to the north; the other, called the Portillo, is to the 
south, and nearer, but more lofty and dangerous. 



March i8th. We set out for the Portillo pass. Leaving Santiago, 
we crossed the wide burnt-up plain on which that city stands, and 
in the afternoon arrived at the Maypu, one of the principal rivers 
in Chile. The valley, at the point where it enters the first Cordillera, 
is bounded on each side by lofty barren mountains; and although 
not broad, it is very fertile. Numerous cottages were surrounded by 
vines, and by orchards of apple, nectarine, and peach-trees their 
boughs breaking with the weight of the beautiful ripe fruit. In the 
evening we passed the custom-house, where our luggage was exam- 
ined. The frontier of Chile is better guarded by the Cordillera, than 
by the waters of the sea. There are very few valleys which lead to 
the central ranges, and the mountains are quite impassable in other 
parts by beasts of burden. The customhouse officers were very civil, 
which was perhaps partly owing to the passport which the President 
of the Republic had given me; but I must express my admiration at 
the natural politeness of almost every Chileno. In this instance, the 
contrast with the same class of men in most other countries was 
strongly marked. I may mention an anecdote with which I was at 
the time much pleased: we met near Mendoza a little and very fat 
negress, riding astride on a mule. She had a goitre so enormous that 
it was scarcely possible to avoid gazing at her for a moment; but 
my two companions almost instantly, by way of apology, made the 
common salute of the country by taking off their hats. Where would 
one of the lower or higher classes in Europe, have shown such 
feeling politeness to a poor and miserable object of a degraded 
race ? 

At night we slept at a cottage. Our manner of travelling was 
delightfully independent. In the inhabited parts we bought a little 
firewood, hired pasture for the animals, and bivouacked in the 
corner of the same field with them. Carrying an iron pot, we cooked 
and ate our supper under a cloudless sky, and knew no trouble. My 
companions were Mariano Gonzales, who had formerly accom- 
panied me in Chile, and an "arriero," with his ten mules and a 
"madrina." The madrina (or godmother) is a most important per- 
sonage: she is an old steady mare, with a little bell round her neck; 
and wherever she goes, the mules, like good children, follow her. 
The affection of these animals for their madrinas saves infinite 


trouble. If several large troops are turned into one field to graze, 
in the morning the muleteers have only to lead the madrinas a little 
apart, and tinkle their bells; although there may be two or three 
hundred together, each mule immediately knows the bell of its own 
madrina, and comes to her. It is nearly impossible to lose an old 
mule; for if detained for several hours by force, she will, by the 
power of smell, like a dog, track out her companions, or rather the 
madrina, for, according to the muleteer, she is the chief object of 
affection. The feeling, however, is not of an individual nature; for 
I believe I am right in saying that any animal with a bell will serve 
as a madrina. In a troop each animal carries on a level road, a cargo 
weighing 416 pounds (more than 29 stone), but in a mountainous 
country 100 pounds less; yet with what delicate slim limbs, without 
any proportional bulk of muscle, these animals support so great a 
burden! The mule always appears to me a most surprising animal. 
That a hybrid should possess more reason, memory, obstinacy, social 
affection, powers of muscular endurance, and length of life, than 
either of its parents, seems to indicate that art has here outdone 
nature. Of our ten animals, six were intended for riding, and four 
for carrying cargoes, each taking turn about. We carried a good deal 
of food, in case we should be snowed up, as the season was rather 
late for passing the Portillo. 

March igth. We rode during this day to the last, and therefore 
most elevated, house in the valley. The number of inhabitants be- 
came scanty; but wherever water could be brought on the land, it 
was very fertile. All the main valleys in the Cordillera are charac- 
terized by having, on both sides, a fringe or terrace of shingle and 
sand, rudely stratified, and generally of considerable thickness. 
These fringes evidently once extended across the valleys and were 
united; and the bottoms of the valleys in northern Chile, where 
there are no streams, are thus smoothly filled up. On these fringes 
the roads are generally carried, for their surfaces are even, and they 
rise with a very gentle slope up the valleys: hence, also, they are 
easily cultivated by irrigation. They may be traced up to a height 
of between 7000 and 9000 feet, where they become hidden by the 
irregular piles of debris. At the lower end or mouths of the valleys, 
they are continuously united to those land-locked plains (also formed 


of shingle) at the foot of the main Cordillera, which I have described 
in a former chapter as characteristic of the scenery of Chile, and 
which were undoubtedly deposited when the sea penetrated Chile, 
as it now does the more southern coasts. No one fact in the geology 
of South America, interested me more than these terraces of rudely- 
stratified shingle. They precisely resemble in composition the matter 
which the torrents in each valley would deposit, if they were 
checked in their course by any cause, such as entering a lake or arm 
of the sea; but the torrents, instead of depositing matter, are now 
steadily at work wearing away both the solid rock and these alluvial 
deposits, along the whole line of every main valley and side valley. 
It is impossible here to give the reasons, but I am convinced that 
the shingle terraces were accumulated, during the gradual elevation 
of the Cordillera, by the torrents delivering, at successive levels, their 
detritus on the beachheads of long narrow arms of the sea, first high 
up the valleys, then lower and lower down as the land slowly rose. 
If this be so, and I cannot doubt it, the grand and broken chain of the 
Cordillera, instead of having been suddenly thrown up, as was till 
lately the universal, and still is the common opinion of geologists, 
has been slowly upheaved in mass, in the same gradual manner as 
the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific have risen within the recent 
period. A multitude of facts in the structure of the Cordillera, on 
this view receive a simple explanation. 

The rivers which flow in these valleys ought rather to be called 
mountain-torrents. Their inclination is very great, and their water 
the colour of mud. The roar which the Maypu made, as it rushed 
over the great rounded fragments, was like that of the sea. Amidst 
the din of rushing waters, the noise from the stones, as they rattled 
one over another, was most distinctly audible even from a distance. 
This rattling noise, night and day, may be heard along the whole 
course of the torrent. The sound spoke eloquently to the geologist; 
the thousands and thousands of stones, which, striking against each 
other, made the one dull uniform sound, were all hurrying in one 
direction. It was like thinking on time, where the minute that now 
glides past is irrevocable. So was it with these stones; the ocean is 
their eternity, and each note of that wild music told of one more step 
towards their destiny. 


It is not possible for the mind to comprehend, except by a slow 
process, any effect which is produced by a cause repeated so often, 
that the multiplier itself conveys an idea, not more definite than the 
savage implies when he points to the hairs of his head. As often as 
I have seen beds of mud, sand, and shingle, accumulated to the 
thickness of many thousand feet, I have felt inclined to exclaim that 
causes, such as the present rivers and the present beaches, could 
never have ground down and produced such masses. But, on the 
other hand, when listening to the rattling noise of these torrents, 
and calling to mind that whole races of animals have passed away 
from the face of the earth, and that during this whole period, night 
and day, these stones have gone rattling onwards in their course, 
I have thought to myself, can any mountains, any continent, with- 
stand such waste? 

In this part of the valley, the mountains on each side were from 
3000 to 6000 or 8000 feet high, with rounded outlines and steep bare 
flanks. The general colour of the rock was dullish purple, and the 
stratification very distinct. If the scenery was not beautiful, it was 
remarkable and grand. We met during the day several herds of 
cattle, which men were driving down from the higher valleys in the 
Cordillera. This sign of the approaching winter hurried our steps, 
more than was convenient for geologizing. The house where we 
slept was situated at the foot of a mountain, on the summit of which 
are the mines of S. Pedro de Nolasko. Sir F. Head marvels how 
mines have been discovered in such extraordinary situations, as the 
bleak summit of the mountain of S. Pedro de Nolasko. In the first 
place, metallic veins in this country are generally harder than the 
surrounding strata: hence, during the gradual wear of the hills, they 
project above -the surface of the ground. Secondly, almost every 
labourer, especially in the northern parts of Chile, understands some- 
thing about the appearance of ores. In the great mining provinces of 
Coquimbo and Copiapo, firewood is very scarce, and men search 
for it over every hill and dale; and by this means nearly all the 
richest mines have there been discovered. Chanuncillo, from which 
silver to the value of many hundred thousand pounds has been raised 
in the course of a few years, was discovered by a man who threw a 
stone at his loaded donkey, and thinking that it was very heavy, he 


picked it up, and found it full of pure silver: the vein occurred at no 
great distance, standing up like a wedge of metal. The miners, also, 
taking a crowbar with them, often wander on Sundays over the 
mountains. In this south part of Chile, the men who drive cattle into 
the Cordillera, and who frequent every ravine where there is a little 
pasture, are the usual discoverers. 

2oth. As we ascended the valley, the vegetation, with the excep- 
tion of a few pretty alpine flowers, became exceedingly scanty; and 
of quadrupeds, birds, or insects, scarcely one could be seen. The lofty 
mountains, their summits marked with a few patches of snow, stood 
well separated from each other, the valleys being filled up with an 
immense thickness of stratified alluvium. The features in the scenery 
of the Andes which struck me most, as contrasted with the other 
mountain chains with which I am acquainted, were, the flat fringes 
sometimes expanding into narrow plains on each side of the valleys, 
the bright colours, chiefly red and purple, of the utterly bare and 
precipitous hills of porphyry, the grand and continuous wall-like 
dykes, the plainly-divided strata which, where nearly vertical, 
formed the picturesque and wild central pinnacles, but where less 
inclined, composed the great massive mountains on the outskirts of 
the range, and lastly, the smooth conical piles of fine and brightly 
coloured detritus, which sloped up at a high angle from the base 
of the mountains, sometimes to a height of more than 2000 feet. 

I frequently observed, both in Tierra del Fuego and within the 
Andes, that where the rock was covered during the greater part of 
the year with snow, it was shivered in a very extraordinary manner 
into small angular fragments. Scoresby 1 has observed the same fact 
in Spitzbergen. The case appears to me rather obscure: for that part 
of the mountain which is protected by a mantle of snow, must be 
less subject to repeated and great changes of temperature than any 
other part. I have sometimes thought, that the earth and fragments 
of stone on the surface, were perhaps less effectually removed by 
slowly percolating snow-water 2 than by rain, and therefore that the 

1 Scoresby 's Arctic Regions, vol. i. p. 122. 

2 1 have heard it remarked in Shropshire that the water, when the Severn is 
flooded from long-continued rain, is much more turbid than when it proceeds from the 
snow melting in the Welsh mountains. D'Orbigny (torn. i. p. 184), in explaining 
the cause of the various colours of the rivers in South America, remarks that those 
with blue or clear water have their source in the Cordillera, where the snow melts. 


appearance of a quicker disintegration of the solid rock under the 
snow, was deceptive. Whatever the cause may be, the quantity 
of crumbling stone on the Cordillera is very great. Occasionally in 
the spring, great masses of this detritus slide down the mountains, 
and cover the snow-drifts in the valleys, thus forming natural 
ice-houses. We rode over one, the height of which was far below the 
limit of perpetual snow. 

As the evening drew to a close, we reached a singular basin-like 
plain, called the Valle del Yeso. It was covered by a little dry pasture, 
and we had the pleasant sight of a herd of cattle amidst the surround- 
ing rocky deserts. The valley takes its name of Yeso from a great bed, 
I should think at least 2000 feet thick, of white, and in some parts 
quite pure, gypsum. We slept with a party of men, who were em- 
ployed in loading mules with this substance, which is used in the 
manufacture of wine. We set out early in the morning (21 st), and 
continued to follow the course of the river, which had become very 
small, till we arrived at the foot of the ridge, that separates the waters 
flowing into the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The road, which as 
yet had been good with a steady but very gradual ascent, now 
changed into a steep zigzag track up the great range, dividing the 
republics of Chile and Mendoza. 

I will here give a very brief sketch of the geology of the several 
parallel lines forming the Cordillera. Of these lines, there are two 
considerably higher than the others; namely, on the Chilian side, the 
Peuquenes ridge, which, where the road crosses it, is 13,210 feet above 
the sea; and the Portillo ridge, on the Mendoza side, which is 14,305 
feet. The lower beds of the Peuquenes ridge, and of the several great 
lines to the westward of it, are composed of a vast pile, many thou- 
sand feet in thickness, of porphyries which have flowed as subma- 
rine lavas, alternating with angular and rounded fragments of the 
same rocks, thrown out of the submarine craters. These alter- 
nating masses are covered in the central parts, by a great thickness 
of red sandstone, conglomerate, and calcareous clay-slate, associ- 
ated with, and passing into, prodigious beds of gypsum. In these 
upper beds shells are tolerably frequent; and they belong to about 
the period of the lower chalk of Europe. It is an old story, but 
not the less wonderful, to hear of shells which were once crawling 


on the bottom of the sea, now standing nearly 14,000 feet above its 
level. The lower beds in this great pile of strata, have been dis- 
located, baked, crystallized and almost blended together, through 
the agency of mountain masses of a peculiar white soda-granitic 

The other main line, namely, that of the Portillo, is of a totally 
different formation: it consists chiefly of grand bare pinnacles of a 
red potash-granite, which low down on the western flank are covered 
by a sandstone, converted by the former heat into a quartz-rock. 
On the quartz, there rest beds of a conglomerate several thousand 
feet in thickness, which have been upheaved by the red granite, and 
dip at an angle of 45 towards the Peuquenes line. I was astonished 
to find that this conglomerate was partly composed of pebbles, de- 
rived from the rocks, with their fossil shells, of the Peuquenes range; 
and partly of red potash-granite, like that of the Portillo. Hence we 
must conclude, that both the Peuquenes and Portillo ranges were 
partially upheaved and exposed to wear and tear, when the con- 
glomerate was forming; but as the beds of the conglomerate have 
been thrown of! at an angle of 45 by the red Portillo granite (with 
the underlying sandstone baked by it), we may feel sure, that the 
greater part of the injection and upheaval of the already partially 
formed Portillo line, took place after the accumulation of the con- 
glomerate, and long after the elevation of the Peuquenes ridge. So 
that the Portillo, the loftiest line in this part of the Cordillera, is not 
so old as the less lofty line of the Peuquenes. Evidence derived from 
an inclined stream of lava at the eastern base of the Portillo, might 
be adduced to show, that it owes part of its great height to elevations 
of a still later date. Looking to its earliest origin, the red granite 
seems to have been injected on an ancient pre-existing line of white 
granite and mica-slate. In most parts, perhaps in all parts, of the 
Cordillera, it may be concluded that each line has been formed by 
repeated upheavals and injections; and that the several parallel 
lines are of different ages. Only thus can we gain time, at all suf- 
ficient to explain the truly astonishing amount of denudation, which 
these great, though comparatively with most other ranges recent, 
mountains have suffered. 

Finally, the shells in the Peuquenes or oldest ridge, prove, as before 
remarked, that it has been upraised 14,000 feet since a Secondary 


period, which in Europe we are accustomed to consider as far from 
ancient; but since these shells lived in a moderately deep sea, it can 
be shown that the area now occupied by the Cordillera, must have 
subsided several thousand feet in northern Chile as much as 6000 
feet so as to have allowed that amount of submarine strata to have 
been heaped on the bed on which the shells lived. The proof is the 
same with that by which it was shown, that at a much later period, 
since the tertiary shells of Patagonia lived, there must have been there 
a subsidence of several hundred feet, as well as an ensuing elevation. 
Daily it is forced home on the mind of the geologist, that nothing, 
not even the wind that blows, is so unstable as the level of the crust 
of this earth. 

I will make only one other geological remark: although the Por- 
tillo chain is here higher than the Peuquenes, the waters draining the 
intermediate valleys, have burst through it. The same fact, on a 
grander scale, has been remarked in the eastern and loftiest line 
of the Bolivian Cordillera, through which the rivers pass: analogous 
facts have also been observed in other quarters of the world. On the 
supposition of the subsequent and gradual elevation of the Portillo 
line, this can be understood; for a chain of islets would at first 
appear, and, as these were lifted up, the tides would be always wear- 
ing deeper and broader channels between them. At the present day, 
even in the most retired Sounds on the coast of Tierra del Fuego, the 
currents in the transverse breaks which connect the longitudinal 
channels, are very strong, so that in one transverse channel even a 
small vessel under sail was whirled round and round. 

About noon we began the tedious ascent of the Peuquenes ridge, 
and then for the first time experienced some little difficulty in our 
respiration. The mules would halt every fifty yards, and after resting 
for a few seconds the poor willing animals started of their own 
accord again. The short breathing from the rarefied atmosphere is 
called by the Chilenos "puna;" and they have most ridiculous notions 
concerning its origin. Some say "all the waters here have puna;" 
others that "where there is snow there is puna;" and this no 
doubt is true. The only sensation I experienced was a slight tight- 
ness across the head and chest, like that felt on leaving a warm 
room and running quickly in frosty weather. There was some 


imagination even in this; for upon finding fossil shells on the highest 
ridge, I entirely forgot the puna in my delight. Certainly the exertion 
of walking was extremely great, and the respiration became deep and 
laborious: I am told that in Potosi (about 13,000 feet above the sea) 
strangers do not become thoroughly accustomed to the atmosphere 
for an entire year. The inhabitants all recommend onions for the 
puna; as this vegetable has sometimes been given in Europe for 
pectoral complaints, it may possibly be of real service: for my part 
I found nothing so good as the fossil shells! 

When about half-way up we met a large party with seventy loaded 
mules. It was interesting to hear the wild cries of the muleteers, 
and to watch the long descending string of the animals; they ap- 
peared so diminutive, there being nothing but the black mountains 
with which they could be compared. When near the summit, the 
wind, as generally happens, was impetuous and extremely cold. On 
each side of the ridge, we had to pass over broad bands of perpetual 
snow, which were now soon to be covered by a fresh layer. When 
we reached the crest and looked backwards, a glorious view was 
presented. The atmosphere resplendently clear; the sky an intense 
blue; the profound valleys; the wild broken forms; the heaps of 
ruins, piled up during the lapse of ages; the bright-coloured rocks, 
contrasted with the quiet mountains of snow; all these together 
produced a scene no one could have imagined. Neither plant nor 
bird, excepting a few condors wheeling around the higher pinnacles, 
distracted my attention from the inanimate mass. I felt glad that I 
was alone: it was like watching a thunderstorm, or hearing in full 
orchestra a chorus of the Messiah. 

On several patches of the snow I found the Protococcus nivalis, 
or red snow, so well known from the accounts of Arctic navigators. 
My attention was called to it, by observing the footsteps of the mules 
stained a pale red, as if their hoofs had been slightly bloody. I at 
first thought that it was owing to dust blown from the surrounding 
mountains of red porphyry; for from the magnifying power of the 
crystals of snow, the groups of these microscopical plants appeared 
like coarse particles. The snow was coloured only where it had 
thawed very rapidly, or had been accidentally crushed. A little 
rubbed on paper gave it a faint rose tinge mingled with a little 
brick-red. I afterwards scraped some off the paper, and found that 


it consisted of groups of little spheres in colourless cases, each of the 
thousandth part of an inch in diameter. 

The wind on the crest of the Peuquenes, as just remarked, is 
generally impetuous and very cold: it is said 3 to blow steadily from 
the westward or Pacific side. As the observations have been chiefly 
made in summer, this wind must be an upper and return current. 
The Peak of Tenerirfe, with a less elevation, and situated in lat. 28, 
in like manner falls within an upper return stream. At first it appears 
rather surprising, -that the trade-wind along the northern parts of 
Chile and on the coast of Peru, should blow in so very southerly a 
direction as it does; but when we reflect that the Cordillera, running 
in a north and south line, intercepts, like a great wall, the entire 
depth of the lower atmospheric current, we can easily see that the 
trade-wind must be drawn northward, following the line of moun- 
tains, towards the equatorial regions, and thus lose part of that 
easterly movement which it otherwise would have gained from the 
earth's rotation. At Mendoza, on the eastern foot of the Andes, 
the climate is said to be subject to long calms, and to frequent 
though false appearances of gathering rain-storms: we may imagine 
that the wind, which coming from the eastward is thus banked up 
by the line of mountains, would become stagnant and irregular in 
its movements. 

Having crossed the Peuquenes, we descended into a mountainous 
country, intermediate between the two main ranges, and then took 
up our quarters for the night. We were now in the republic of 
Mendoza. The elevation was probably not under 11,000 feet, and 
the vegetation in consequence exceedingly scanty. The root of a 
small scrubby plant served as fuel, but it made a miserable fire, and 
the wind was piercingly cold. Being quite tired with my day's work, 
I made up my bed as quickly as I could, and went to sleep. About 
midnight, I observed the sky became suddenly clouded: I awakened 
the arriero to know if there was any danger of bad weather; but he 
said that without thunder and lightning there was no risk of a 
heavy snow-storm. The peril is imminent, and the difficulty of sub- 
sequent escape great, to any one overtaken by bad weather between 
the two ranges. A certain cave ofTers the only place of refuge: Mr. 

3 Dr. Gillies in Journ. of Nat. and Geograph. Science, Aug., 1830. This author 
gives the heights of the Passes. 


Caldcleugh, who crossed on this same day of the month, was detained 
there for some time by a heavy fall of snow. Casuchas, or houses of 
refuge, have not been built in this pass as in that of Uspallata, and, 
therefore, during the autumn, the Portillo is little frequented. I 
may here remark that within the main Cordillera rain never falls, 
for during the summer the sky is cloudless, and in winter snow- 
storms alone occur. 

At the place where we slept water necessarily boiled, from the 
diminished pressure of the atmosphere, at a lower temperature than 
it does in a less lofty country; the case being the converse of that of a 
Papin's digester. Hence the potatoes, after remaining for some 
hours in the boiling water, were nearly as hard as ever. The pot was 
left on the fire all night, and next morning it was boiled again, but 
yet the potatoes were not cooked. I found out this, by overhearing 
my two companions discussing the cause; they had come to the 
simple conclusion, "that the cursed pot [which was a new one] did 
not choose to boil potatoes." 

March 22nd. After eating our potatoless breakfast, we travelled 
across the intermediate tract to the foot of the Portillo range. In the 
middle of summer cattle are brought up here to graze; but they had 
now all been removed : even the greater number of the Guanacos had 
decamped, knowing well that if overtaken here by a snow-storm, 
they would be caught in a trap. We had a fine view of a mass of 
mountains called Tupungato, the whole clothed with unbroken 
snow, in the midst of which there was a blue patch, no doubt a 
glacier; a circumstance of rare occurrence in these mountains. Now 
commenced a heavy and long climb, similar to that of the Peuquenes. 
Bold conical hills of red granite rose on each hand; in the valleys 
there were several broad fields of perpetual snow. These frozen 
masses, during the process of thawing, had in some parts been con- 
verted into pinnacles or columns, 4 which, as they were high and 
close together, made it difficult for the cargo mules to pass. On one 
of these columns of ice, a frozen horse was sticking as on a pedestal, 

4 This structure in frozen snow was long since observed by Scoresby in the ice- 
bergs near Spitzbergen, and, lately, with more care, by Colonel Jackson (Journ. of 
Geograph. Soc., vol. v. p. 12) on the Neva. Mr. Lyell (Principles, vol. iv. p. 360) 
has compared the fissures by which the columnar structure seems to be determined, 
to the joints that traverse nearly all rocks, but which are best seen in the non-stratified 
masses. I may observe, that in the case of the frozen snow, the columnar structure 
must be owing to a "metamorphic" action, and not to a process during deposition. 


but with its hind legs straight up in the air. The animal, I suppose, 
must have fallen with its head downward into a hole, when the 
snow was continuous, and afterwards the surrounding parts must 
have been removed by the thaw. 

When nearly on the crest of the Portillo, we were enveloped in a 
falling cloud of minute frozen spicula. This was very unfortunate, 
as it continued the whole day, and quite intercepted our view. The 
pass takes its name of Portillo, from a narrow cleft or doorway on 
the highest ridge, through which the road passes. From this point, 
on a clear day, those vast plains which uninterruptedly extend to the 
Atlantic Ocean can be seen. We descended to the upper limit of 
vegetation, and found good quarters for the night under the shelter 
of some large fragments of rock. We met here some passengers, 
who made anxious inquiries about the state of the road. Shortly after 
it was dark the clouds suddenly cleared away, and the effect was 
quite magical. The great mountains, bright with the full moon, 
seemed impending over us on all sides, as over a deep crevice: one 
morning, very early, I witnessed the same striking effect. As soon as 
the clouds were dispersed it froze severely; but as there was no wind 
we slept very comfortably. 

The increased brilliancy of the moon and stars at this elevation, 
owing to the perfect transparency of the atmosphere, was very 
remarkable. Travelers having observed the difficulty of judging 
heights and distances amidst lofty mountains, have generally at- 
tributed it to the absence of objects of comparison. It appears to 
me, that it is fully as much owing to the transparency of the air 
confounding objects at different distances, and likewise partly to 
the novelty of an unusual degree of fatigue arising from a little 
exertion, habit being thus opposed to the evidence of the senses. 
I am sure that this extreme clearness of the air gives a peculiar 
character to the landscape, all objects appearing to be brought nearly 
into one plane, as in a drawing or panorama. The transparency is, I 
presume, owing to the equable and high state of atmospheric dry- 
ness. This dryness was shown by the manner in which woodwork 
shrank (as I soon found by the trouble my geological hammer gave 
me); by articles of food, such as bread and sugar, becoming ex- 
tremely hard; and by the preservation of the skin and parts of the 
flesh of the beasts, which had perished on the road. To the same 


cause we must attribute the singular facility with which electricity is 
excited. My flannel waistcoat, when rubbed in the dark, appeared 
as if it had been washed with phosphorus; every hair on a dog's 
back crackled; even the linen sheets, and leathern straps of the 
saddle, when handled, emitted sparks. 

March 2^rd. The descent on the eastern side of the Cordillera is 
much shorter or steeper than on the Pacific side; in other words, the 
mountains rise more abruptly from the plains than from the alpine 
country of Chile. A level and brilliantly white sea of clouds was 
stretched out beneath our feet, shutting out the view of the equally 
level Pampas. We soon entered the band of clouds, and did not again 
emerge from it that day. About noon, finding pasture for the ani- 
mals and bushes for firewood at Los Arenales, we stopped for the 
night. This was near the uppermost limit of bushes, and the ele- 
vation, I suppose, was between seven and eight thousand feet. 

I was much struck with -the marked difference between the vege- 
tation of these eastern valleys and those on the Chilian side: yet the 
climate, as well as the kind of soil, is nearly the same, and the dif- 
ference of longitude very trifling. The same remark holds good with 
the quadrupeds, and in a lesser degree with the birds and insects. I 
may instance the mice, of which I obtained thirteen species on the 
shores of the Atlantic, and five on the Pacific, and not one of them is 
identical. We must except all those species, which habitually or occa- 
sionally frequent elevated mountains; and certain birds, which range 
as far south as the Strait of Magellan. This fact is in perfect accord- 
ance with the geological history of the Andes; for these mountains 
have existed as a great barrier since the present races of animals have 
appeared; and therefore, unless we suppose the same species to have 
been created in two different places, we ought not to expect any 
closer similarity between the organic beings on the opposite sides of 
the Andes than on the opposite shores of the ocean. In both cases, 
we must leave out of the question those kinds which have been able 
to cross the barrier, whether of solid rock or salt-water. 5 

5 This is merely an illustration of the admirable laws, first laid down by Mr. 
Lyell, on the geographical distribution of animals, as influenced by geological 
changes. The whole reasoning, of course, is founded on the assumption of the im- 
mutability of species; otherwise the difference in the species in the two regions might 
be considered as superinduced during a length of time. 


A great number of the plants and animals were absolutely the 
same as, or most closely allied to, those of Patagonia. We here have 
the agouti, bizcacha, three species of armadillo, the ostrich, certain 
kinds of partridges and other birds, none of which are ever seen in 
Chile, but are the characteristic animals of the desert plains of 
Patagonia. We have likewise many of the same (to the eyes of a 
person who is not a botanist) thorny stunted bushes, withered grass, 
and dwarf plants. Even the black slowly crawling beetles are closely 
similar, and some, I believe, on rigorous examination, absolutely 
identical. It had always been to 'me a subject of regret, that we were 
unavoidably compelled to give up the ascent of the S. Cruz river 
before reaching the mountains : I always had a latent hope of meet- 
ing with some great change in the features of the country; but I 
now feel sure, that it would only have been following the plains of 
Patagonia up a mountainous ascent. 

March 2^th. Early in the morning I climbed up a mountain on 
one side of the valley, and enjoyed a far extended view over the 
Pampas. This was a spectacle to which I had always looked forward 
with interest, but I was disappointed: at the first glance it much 
resembled a distant view of the ocean, but in the northern parts many 
irregularities were soon distinguishable. The most striking feature 
consisted in the rivers, which, facing the rising sun, glittered like 
silver threads, till lost in the immensity of the distance. At midday 
we descended the valley, and reached a hovel, where an officer and 
three soldiers were posted to examine passports. One of these 
men was a thoroughbred Pampas Indian: he was kept much for 
the same purpose as a bloodhound, to track out any person who 
might pass by secretly, either on foot or horseback. Some years ago, 
a passenger endeavoured to escape detection, by making a long cir- 
cuit over a neighbouring mountain; but this Indian, having by 
chance crossed his track, followed it for the whole day over dry and 
very stony hills, till at last he came on his prey hidden in a gully. 
We here heard that the silvery clouds, which we had admired from 
the bright region above, had poured down torrents of rain. The 
valley from this point gradually opened, and the hills became mere 
water-worn hillocks compared to the giants behind: it then ex- 
panded into a gently sloping plain of shingle, covered with low 


trees and bushes. This talus, although appearing narrow, must be 
nearly ten miles wide before it blends into the apparently dead level 
Pampas. We passed the only house in this neighbourhood, the 
Estancia of Chaquaio: and at sunset we pulled up in the first snug 
corner, and there bivouacked. 

March 2$th. I was reminded of the Pampas of Buenos Ay res, 
by seeing the disk of the rising sun, intersected by an horizon level 
as that of the ocean. During the night a heavy dew fell, a circum- 
stance which we did not experience within the Cordillera. The road 
proceeded for some distance due east across a low swamp; then 
meeting the dry plain, it turned to the north towards Mendoza. 
The distance is two very long days' journey. Our first day's journey 
was called fourteen leagues to Estacado, and the second seventeen 
to Luxan, near Mendoza. The whole distance is over a level desert 
plain, with not more than two or three houses. The sun was ex- 
ceedingly powerful, and the ride devoid of all interest. There is very 
little water in this "traversia," and in our second day's journey 
we found only one little pool. Little water flows from the mountains, 
and it soon becomes absorbed by the dry and porous soil; so that, 
although we travelled at the distance of only ten or fifteen miles from 
the outer range of the Cordillera, we did not cross a single stream. 
In many parts the ground was incrusted with a saline efflorescence; 
hence we had the same salt-loving plants which are common near 
Bahia Blanca. The landscape has a uniform character from the 
Strait of Magellan, along the whole eastern coast of Patagonia, to the 
Rio Colorado; and it appears that the same kind of country extends 
inland from this river, in a sweeping line as far as San Luis, and per- 
haps even further north. To the eastward of this curved line lies the 
basin of the comparatively damp and green plains of Buenos Ayres. 
The sterile plains of Mendoza and Patagonia consist of a bed of 
shingle, worn smooth and accumulated by the waves of the sea; while 
the Pampas, covered by thistles, clover, and grass, have been formed 
by the ancient estuary mud of the Plata. 

After our two days' tedious journey, it was refreshing to see in 
the distance the rows of poplars and willows growing round the vil- 
lage and river of Luxan. Shortly before we arrived at this place, 
we observed to the south a ragged cloud of dark reddish-brown col- 


our. At first we thought that it was smoke from some great fire 
on the plains; but we soon found that it was a swarm of locusts. 
They were flying northward; and with the aid of a light breeze, 
they overtook us at a rate of ten or fifteen miles an hour. The main 
body filled the air from a height of twenty feet, to that, as it ap- 
peared, of two or three thousand above the ground; "and the sound 
of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running 
to battle:" or rather, I should say, like a strong breeze passing through 
the rigging of a ship. The sky, seen through the advanced guard, 
appeared like a mezzotinto engraving, but the main body was im- 
pervious to sight; they were not, however, so thick together, but 
that they could escape a stick waved backwards and forwards. 
When they alighted, they were more numerous than the leaves in 
the field, and the surface became reddish instead of being green : the 
swarm having once alighted, the individuals flew from side to side 
in all directions. Locusts are not an uncommon pest in this country r 
already during the season, several smaller swarms had come up 
from the south, where, as apparently in all other parts of the world, 
they are bred in the deserts. The poor cottagers in vain attempted 
by lighting fires, by shouts, and by waving branches to avert the 
attack. This species of locust closely resembles, and perhaps is identi- 
cal with, the famous Gryllus migratorius of the East. 

We crossed the Luxan, which is a river of considerable size, though 
its course towards the sea-coast is very imperfectly known : it is even 
doubtful whether, in passing over the plains, it is not evaporated 
and lost. We slept in the village of Luxan, which is a small place 
surrounded by gardens, and forms the most southern cultivated dis- 
trict in the Province of Mendoza; it is five leagues south of the 
capital. At night I experienced an attack (for it deserves no less a 
name) of the Benchuca, a species of Reduvius, the great black bug 
of the Pampas. It is most disgusting to feel soft wingless insects, 
about an inch long, crawling over one's body. Before sucking they 
are quite thin, but afterwards they become round and bloated with 
blood, and in this state are easily crushed. One which I caught at 
Iquique, (for they are found in Chile and Peru,) was very empty. 
When placed on a table, and though surrounded by people, if a 
finger was presented, the bold insect would immediately protrude 


its sucker, make a charge, and if allowed, draw blood. No pain 
was caused by the wound. It was curious to watch its body during 
the act of sucking, as in less than ten minutes it changed from 
being as flat as a wafer to a globular form. This one feast, for which 
the benchuca was indebted to one of the officers, kept it fat during 
four whole months; but, after the first fortnight, it was quite ready 
to have another suck. 

March 2jth We rode on to Mendoza. The country was beauti- 
fully cultivated, and resembled Chile. This neighbourhood is cele- 
brated for its fruit; and certainly nothing could appear more flourish- 
ing than the vineyards and the orchards of figs, peaches, and olives. 
We bought water-melons nearly twice as large as a man's head, 
most deliciously cool and well-flavoured, for a halfpenny apiece; 
and for the value of threepence, half a wheelbarrowful of peaches. 
The cultivated and enclosed part of this province is very small; there 
is little more than that which we passed through between Luxan 
and the capital. The land, as in Chile, owes its fertility entirely to 
artificial irrigation; and it is really wonderful to observe how ex- 
traordinarily productive a barren traversia is thus rendered. 

We stayed the ensuing day in Mendoza. The prosperity of the 
place has much declined of late years. The inhabitants say "it is 
good to live in, but very bad to grow rich in." The lower orders 
have the lounging, reckless manners of the Gauchos of the Pampas; 
and their dress, riding-gear, and habits of life, are nearly the same. 
To my mind the town had a stupid, forlorn aspect. Neither the 
boasted alameda, nor the scenery, is at all comparable with that of 
Santiago; but to those who, coming from Buenos Ay res, have just 
crossed the unvaried Pampas, the gardens and orchards must appear 
delightful. Sir F. Head, speaking of the inhabitants, says, "They 
eat their dinners, and it is so very hot, they go to sleep and could 
they do better?" I quite agree with Sir F. Head: the happy doom 
of the Mendozinos is to eat, sleep and be idle. 

March 2$th. We set out on our return to Chile, by the Uspallata 
pass situated north of Mendoza. We had to cross a long and most 
sterile traversia of fifteen leagues. The soil in parts was absolutely 
bare, in others covered by numberless dwarf cacti, armed with 


formidable spines, and called by the inhabitants "little lions." There 
were, also, a few low bushes. Although the plain is nearly three 
thousand feet above the sea, the sun was very powerful; and the heat, 
as well as the clouds of impalpable dust, rendered the travelling 
extremely irksome. Our course during the day lay nearly parallel 
to the Cordillera, but gradually approaching them. Before sunset 
we entered one of the wide valleys, or rather bays, which open on 
the plain : this soon narrowed into a ravine, where a little higher up 
the house of Villa Vicencio is situated. As we had ridden all day 
without a drop of water, both our mules and selves were very thirsty, 
and we looked out anxiously for the stream which flows down this 
valley. It was curious to observe how gradually the water made its 
appearance: on the plain the course was quite dry; by degrees it be- 
came a little damper; then puddles of water appeared; these soon be- 
came connected; and at Villa Vicencio there was a nice little rivulet. 
30th. The solitary hovel which bears the imposing name of 
Villa Vicencio, has been mentioned by every traveller who has 
crossed the Andes. I stayed here and at some neighbouring mines 
during the two succeeding days. The geology of the surrounding 
country is very curious. The Uspallata range is separated from the 
main Cordillera by a long narrow plain or basin, like those so often 
mentioned in Chile, but higher, being six thousand feet above the 
sea. This range has nearly the same geographical position with 
respect to the Cordillera, which the gigantic Portillo line has, but 
it is of a totally different origin: it consists of various kinds of 
submarine lava, alternating with volcanic sandstones and other 
remarkable sedimentary deposits; the whole having a very close 
resemblance to some of the tertiary beds on the shores of the Pacific. 
From this resemblance I expected to find silicified wood, which is 
generally characteristic of those formations. I was gratified in a very 
extraordinary manner. In the central part of the range, at an eleva- 
tion of about seven thousand feet, I observed on a bare slope some 
snow-white projecting columns. These were petrified trees, eleven 
being silicified, and from thirty to forty converted into coarsely- 
crystallized white calcareous spar. They were abruptly broken ofif, 
the upright stumps projecting a few feet above the ground. The 
trunks measured from three to five feet each in circumference. 


They stood a little way apart from each other, but the whole formed 
one group. Mr. Robert Brown has been kind enough to examine 
the wood: he says it belongs to the fir tribe, partaking of the char- 
acter of the Araucarian family, but with some curious points of 
affinity with the yew. The volcanic sandstone in which the trees 
were embedded, and from the lower part of which they must have 
sprung, had accumulated in successive thin layers around their 
trunks; and the stone yet retained the impression of the bark. 

It required little geological practice to interpret the marvellous 
story which this scene at once unfolded; though I confess I was at 
first so much astonished that I could scarcely believe the plainest 
evidence. I saw the spot where a cluster of fine trees once waved 
their branches on the shores of the Atlantic, when that ocean (now 
driven back 700 miles) came to the foot of the Andes. I saw that 
they had sprung from a volcanic soil which had been raised above 
the level of the sea, and that subsequently this dry land, with its 
upright trees, had been let down into the depths of the ocean. In 
these depths, the formerly dry land was covered by sedimentary beds, 
and these again by enormous streams of submarine lava one such 
mass attaining the thickness of a thousand feet; and these deluges 
of molten stone and aqueous deposits five times alternately had been 
spread out. The ocean which received such thick masses, must have 
been profoundly deep; but again the subterranean forces exerted 
themselves, and I now beheld the bed of that ocean, forming a chain 
of mountains more than seven thousand feet in height. Nor had 
those antagonistic forces been dormant, which are always at work 
wearing down the surface of the land; the great piles of strata had 
been intersected by many wide valleys, and the trees now changed 
into silex, were exposed projecting from the volcanic soil, now 
changed into rock, whence formerly, in a green and budding state, 
they had raised their lofty heads. Now, all is utterly irreclaimable 
and desert; even the lichen cannot adhere to the stony casts of 
former trees. Vast, and scarcely comprehensible as such changes 
must ever appear, yet they have all occurred within a period, recent 
when compared with the history of the Cordillera; and the Cor- 
dillera itself is absolutely modern as compared with many of the 
fossiliferous strata of Europe and America. 


April ist.We crossed the Uspallata range, and at night slept at 
the custom-house the only inhabited spot on the plain. Shortly 
before leaving the mountains, there was a very extraordinary view; 
red, purple, green, and quite white sedimentary rocks, alternating 
with black lavas, were broken up and thrown into all kinds of dis- 
order by masses of porphyry of every shade of colour, from dark 
brown to the brightest lilac. It was the first view I ever saw, which 
really resembled those pretty sections which geologists make of the 
inside of the earth. 

The next day we crossed the plain, and followed the course of the 
same great mountain stream which flows by Luxan. Here it was a 
furious torrent, quite impassable, and appeared larger than in the 
low country, as was the case with the rivulet of Villa Vicencio. On 
the evening of the succeeding day, we reached the Rio de las Vacas, 
which is considered the worst stream in the Cordillera to cross. As 
all these rivers have a rapid and short course, and are formed by 
the melting of the snow, the hour of the day makes a considerable 
difference in their volume. In the evening the stream is muddy 
and full, but about daybreak it becomes clearer, and much less im- 
petuous. This we found to be the case with the Rio Vacas, and in 
the morning we crossed it with little difficulty. 

The scenery thus far was very uninteresting, compared with that 
of the Portillo pass. Little can be seen beyond the bare walls of the 
one grand flat-bottomed valley, which the road follows up to the 
highest crest. The valley and the huge rocky mountains are ex- 
tremely barren : during the two previous nights the poor mules had 
absolutely nothing to eat, for excepting a few low resinous bushes, 
scarcely a plant can be seen. In the course of this day we crossed 
some of the worst passes in the Cordillera, but their danger has been 
much exaggerated. I was told that if I attempted to pass on foot, 
my head would turn giddy, and that there was no room to dismount; 
but I did not see a place where any one might not have walked over 
backwards, or got off his mule on either side. One of the bad passes, 
called las Animus (the souls), I had crossed, and did not find out till 
a day afterwards, that it was one of the awful dangers. No doubt 
there are many parts in which, if the mule should stumble, the rider 
would be hurled down a great precipice; but of this there is little 


chance. I dare say, in the spring, the "laderas," or roads, which each 
year are formed anew across the piles of fallen detritus, are very bad; 
but from what I saw, I suspect the real danger is nothing. With 
cargo-mules the case is rather different, for the loads project so far, 
that the animals, occasionally running against each other, or against 
a point of rock, lose their balance, and are thrown down the preci- 
pices. In crossing the rivers I can well believe that the difficulty may 
be very great: at this season there was little trouble, but in the sum- 
mer they must be very hazardous. I can quite imagine, as Sir F. 
Head describes, the different expressions of those who have passed 
the gulf, and those who are passing. I never heard of any man being 
drowned, but with loaded mules it frequently happens. The arriero 
tells you to show your mule the best line, and then allow her to 
cross as she likes, the cargo-mule takes a bad line, and is often 

April 4th. From the Rio de las Vacas to the Puente del Incas, half 
a day's journey. As there was pasture for the mules, and geology 
for me, we bivouacked here for the night. When one hears of a 
natural Bridge, one pictures to one's self some deep and narrow 
ravine, across which a bold mass of rock has fallen; or a great arch 
hollowed out like the vault of a cavern. Instead of this, the Incas- 
Bridge consists of a crust of stratified shingle cemented together by 
the deposits of the neighbouring hot springs. It appears as if the 
stream had scooped out a channel on one side, leaving an overhanging 
ledge, which was met by earth and stones falling down from the 
opposite cliff. Certainly an oblique junction, as would happen in such 
a case, was very distinct on one side. The Bridge of the Incas is by no 
means worthy of the great monarchs whose name it bears. 

$th. We had a long day's ride across the central ridge, from the 
Incas Bridge to the Ojos del Agua, which are situated near the 
lowest casucha on the Chilian side. These casuchas are round little 
towers, with steps outside to reach the floor, which is raised some 
feet above the ground on account of the snow-drifts. They are eight 
in number, and under the Spanish government were kept during 
the winter well stored with food and charcoal, and each courier had 
a master-key. Now they only answer the purpose of caves, or rather 
dungeons. Seated on some little eminence, they are not, however, ill. 


suited to the surrounding scene of desolation. The zigzag ascent of 
the Cumbre, or the partition of the waters, was very steep and 
tedious; its height, according to Mr. Pentland, is 12,454 ^ eet - The 
road did not pass over any perpetual snow, although there were 
patches of it on both hands. The wind on the summit was exceed- 
ingly cold, but it was impossible not to stop for a few minutes to 
admire, again and again, the colour of the heavens, and the brilliant 
transparency of the atmosphere. The scenery was grand: to the 
westward there was a fine chaos of mountains, divided by profound 
ravines. Some snow generally falls before this period of the season, 
and it has even happened that the Cordillera have been finally closed 
by this time. But we were most fortunate. The sky, by night and 
by day, was cloudless, excepting a few round little masses of vapour, 
that floated over the highest pinnacles. I have often seen these islets 
in the sky, marking the position of the Cordillera, when the far- 
distant mountains have been hidden beneath the horizon. 

April 6th. In the morning we found some thief had stolen one 
of our mules, and the bell of the madrina. We therefore rode only 
two or three miles down the valley, and stayed there the ensuing 
day in hopes of recovering the mule, which the arriero thought had 
been hidden in some ravine. The scenery in this part had assumed 
a Chilian character: the lower sides of the mountains, dotted over 
with the pale evergreen Quillay tree, and with the great chandelier- 
like cactus, are certainly more to be admired than the bare eastern 
valleys; but I cannot quite agree with the admiration expressed by 
some travellers. The extreme pleasure, I suspect, is chiefly owing 
to the prospect of a good fire and of a good supper, after escaping 
from the cold regions above: and I am sure I most heartily partici- 
pated in these feelings. 

8th. We left the valley of the Aconcagua, by which we had 
descended, and reached in the evening a cottage near the Villa del 
St. Rosa. The fertility of the plain was delightful : the autumn being 
advanced, the leaves of many of the fruit-trees were falling; and of 
the labourers, some were busy in drying figs and peaches on the 
roofs of their cottages, while others were gathering the grapes from 
the vineyards. It was a pretty scene; but I missed that pensive 
stillness which makes the autumn in England indeed the evening of 


the year. On the loth we reached Santiago, where I received a very 
kind and hospitable reception from Mr. Caldcleugh. My excursion 
only cost me twenty-four days, and never did I more deeply enjoy 
an equal space of time. A few days afterwards I returned to Mr. 
Corfield's house at Valparaiso. 



Coast-road to Coquimbo Great Loads carried by the Miners Coquimbo 
Earthquake Step-formed Terraces Absence of recent Deposits 
Contemporaneousness of the Tertiary Formations Excursion up the 
Valley Road to Guasco Deserts Valley of Copiapo Rain and 
Earthquakes Hydrophobia The Despoblado Indian Ruins Prob- 
able Change of Climate River-bed arched by an Earthquake Cold 
Gales of Wind Noises from a Hill Iquique Salt Alluvium 
Nitrate of Soda Lima Unhealthy Country Ruins of Callao, over- 
thrown by an Earthquake Recent subsidence Elevated Shells on San 
Lorenzo, their decomposition Plain with embedded Shells and frag- 
ments of Pottery Antiquity of the Indian Race. 

/JPR1L 2jth. I set out on a journey to Coquimbo, and thence 
/J through Guasco to Copiapo, where Captain Fitz Roy 
^/ M kindly offered to pick me up in the Beagle. The distance in 
a straight line along the shore northward is only 420 miles; but my 
mode of travelling made it a very long journey. I bought four horses 
and two mules, the latter carrying the luggage on alternate days. 
The six animals together only cost the value of twenty-five pounds 
sterling, and at Copiapo I sold them again for twenty-three. We 
travelled in the same independent manner as before, cooking our 
own meals, and sleeping in the open air. As we rode towards the 
Vino del Mar, I took a farewell view of Valparaiso, and admired its 
picturesque appearance. For geological purposes I made a detour 
from the high road to the foot of the Bell of Quillota. We passed 
through an alluvial district rich in gold, to the neighbourhood of 
Limache, where we slept. Washing for gold supports the in- 
habitants of numerous hovels, scattered along the sides of each little 
rivulet; but, like all those whose gains are uncertain, they are un- 
thrifty in all their habits, and consequently poor. 

28th. In the afternoon we arrived at a cottage at the foot of the 
Bell mountain. The inhabitants were freeholders, which is not very 
usual in Chile. They supported themselves on the produce of a 


garden and a little field, but were very poor. Capital is here so defi- 
cient, that the people are obliged to sell their green corn while stand- 
ing in the field, in order to buy necessaries for the ensuing year. 
Wheat in consequence was dearer in the very district of its produc- 
tion than at Valparaiso, where the contractors live. The next day 
we joined the main road to Coquimbo. At night there was a very 
light shower of rain: this was the first drop that had fallen since 
the heavy rain of September nth and I2th, which detained me a 
prisoner at the Baths of Cauquenes. The interval was seven and a 
half months; but the rain this year in Chile was rather later than 
usual. The distant Andes were now covered by a thick mass of 
snow, and were a glorious sight. 

May 2nd. The road continued to follow the coast, at no great 
distance from the sea. The few trees and bushes which are common 
in central Chile decreased rapidly in numbers, and were replaced 
by a tall plant, something like a yucca in appearance. The surface 
of the country, on a small scale, was singularly broken and irregular; 
abrupt little peaks of rock rising out of small plains or basins. The 
indented coast and the bottom of the neighbouring sea, studded with 
breakers, would, if converted into dry land, present similar forms; 
and such a conversion without doubt has taken place in the part 
over which we rode. 

$rd. Quilimari to Conchalee. The country became more and 
more barren. In the valleys there was scarcely sufficient water for 
any irrigation; and the intermediate land was quite bare, not sup- 
porting even goats. In the spring, after the winter showers, a thin 
pasture rapidly springs up, and cattle are then driven down from 
the Cordillera to graze for a short time. It is curious to observe how 
the seeds of the grass and other plants seem to accommodate them- 
selves, as if by an acquired habit, to the quantity of rain which falls 
upon different parts of this coast. One shower far northward at 
Copiapo produces as great an effect on the vegetation, as two at 
Guasco, and three or four in this district. At Valparaiso a winter 
so dry as greatly to injure the pasture, would at Guasco produce the 
most unusual abundance. Proceeding northward, the quantity of 
rain does not appear to decrease in strict proportion to the latitude. 
At Conchalee, which is only 67 miles north of Valparaiso, rain is 


not expected till the end of May; whereas at Valparaiso some gener- 
ally falls early in April: the annual quantity is likewise small in 
proportion to the lateness of the season at which it commences. 

qth. Finding the coast-road devoid of interest of any kind, we 
turned inland towards the mining district and valley of Illapel. This 
valley, like every other in Chile, is level, broad, and very fertile: it 
is bordered on each side, either by cliffs of stratified shingle, or by 
bare rocky mountains. Above the straight line of the uppermost 
irrigating ditch, all is brown as on a high road; while all below is of 
as bright a green as verdigris, from the beds of alfalfa, a kind of 
clover. We proceeded to Los Hornos, another mining district, where 
the principal hill was drilled with holes, like a great ants'-nest. The 
Chilian miners are a peculiar race of men in their habits. Living for 
weeks together in the most desolate spots, when they descend to the 
villages on feast-days, there is no excess of extravagance into which 
they do not run. They sometimes gain a considerable sum, and 
then, like sailors with prize-money, they try how soon they can con- 
trive to squander it. They drink excessively, buy quantities of clothes, 
and in a few days return penniless to their miserable abodes, there 
to work harder than beasts of burden. This thoughtlessness, as with 
sailors, is evidently the result of a similar manner of life. Their daily 
food is found them, and they acquire no habits of carefulness: more- 
over, temptation and the means of yielding to it are placed in their 
power at the same time. On the other hand, in Cornwall, and some 
other parts of England, where the system of selling part of the vein 
is followed, the miners, from being obliged to act and think for them- 
selves, are a singularly intelligent and well-conducted set of men. 

The dress of the Chilian miner is peculiar and rather picturesque. 
He wears a very long shirt of some dark-coloured baize, with a 
leathern apron; the whole being fastened round his waist by a bright- 
coloured sash. His trousers are very broad, and his small cap of 
scarlet cloth is made to fit the head closely. We met a party of these 
miners in full costume, carrying the body of one of their companions 
to be buried. They marched at a very quick trot, four men support- 
ing the corpse. One set having run as hard as they could for about 
two hundred yards, were relieved by four others, who had previously 
dashed on ahead on horseback. Thus they proceeded, encouraging 


each other by wild cries: altogether the scene formed a most strange 


We continued travelling northward, in a zigzag line; sometimes 
stopping a day to geologize. The country was so thinly inhabited, 
and the track so obscure, that we often had difficulty in finding our 
way. On the i2th I stayed at some mines. The ore in this case was 
not considered particularly good, but from being abundant it was 
supposed the mine would sell for about thirty or forty thousand 
dollars (that is, 6000 or 8000 pounds sterling) ; yet it had been bought 
by one of the English Associations for an ounce of gold (3/. 8s.). The 
ore is yellow pyrites, which, as I have already remarked, before the 
arrival of the English, was not supposed to contain a particle of 
copper. On a scale of profits nearly as great as in the above instance, 
piles of cinders, abounding with minute globules of metallic copper, 
were purchased; yet with these advantages, the mining associations, 
as is well known, contrived to lose immense sums of money. The 
folly of the greater number of the commissioners and shareholders 
amounted to infatuation; a thousand pounds per annum given in 
some cases to entertain the Chilian authorities; libraries of well- 
bound geological books; miners brought out for particular metals, 
as tin, which are not found in Chile; contracts to supply the miners 
with milk, in parts where there are no cows; machinery, where it 
could not possibly be used; and a hundred similar arrangements, 
bore witness to our absurdity, and to this day afford amusement to 
the natives. Yet there can be no doubt, that the same capital well 
employed in these mines would have yielded an immense return, a 
confidential man of business, a practical miner and assayer, would 
have been all that was required. 

Captain Head has described the wonderful load which the 
"Apires," truly beasts of burden, carry up from the deepest mines. 
I confess I thought the account exaggerated; so that I was glad to 
take an opportunity of weighing one of the loads, which I picked 
out by hazard. It required considerable exertion on my part, when 
standing directly over it, to lift it from the ground. The load was 
considered under weight when found to be 197 pounds. The apire 
had carried this up eighty perpendicular yards, part of the way by 
a steep passage, but the greater part up notched poles, placed in a 


zigzag line up the shaft. According to the general regulation, the 
apire is not allowed to halt for breath, except the mine is six hundred 
feet deep. The average load is considered as rather more than 200 
pounds, and I have been assured that one of 300 pounds (twenty- 
two stone and a half) by way of a trial has been brought up from 
the deepest mine! At this time the apires were bringing up the usual 
load twelve times in the day; that is 2400 pounds from eighty yards 
deep; and they were employed in the intervals in breaking and 
picking ore. 

These men, excepting from accidents, are healthy, and appear 
cheerful. Their bodies are not very muscular. They rarely eat meat 
once a week, and never oftener, and then only the hard dry charqui. 
Although with a knowledge that the labour was voluntary, it was 
nevertheless quite revolting to see the state in which they reached 
the mouth of the mine; their bodies bent forward, leaning with 
their arms on the steps, their legs bowed, their muscles quivering, 
the perspiration streaming from their faces over their breasts, their 
nostrils distended, the corners of their mouth forcibly drawn back, 
and the expulsion of their breath most laborious. Each time they 
draw their breath, they utter an articulate cry of "ay-ay," which 
ends in a sound rising from deep in the chest, but shrill like the note 
of a fife. After staggering to the pile of ore, they emptied the "car- 
pacho;" in two or three seconds recovering their breath, they wiped 
the sweat from their brows, and apparently quite fresh descended 
the mine again at a quick pace. This appears to me a wonderful 
instance of the amount of labour which habit, for it can be nothing 
else, will enable a man to endure. 

In the evening, talking with the mayor-domo of these mines about 
the number of foreigners now scattered over the whole country, he 
told me that, though quite a young man, he remembers when he 
was a boy at school at Coquimbo, a holiday being given to see the 
captain of an English ship, who was brought to the city to speak to 
the governor. He believes that nothing would have induced any 
boy in the school, himself included, to have gone close to the English- 
man; so deeply had they been impressed with an idea of the heresy, 
contamination, and evil to be derived from contact with such a 
person. To this day they relate the atrocious actions of the bucaniers; 


and especially of one man, who took away the figure of the Virgin 
Mary, and returned the year after for that of St. Joseph, saying 
it was a pity the lady should not have a husband. I heard also of 
an old lady who, at a dinner at Coquimbo, remarked how wonder- 
fully strange it was that she should have lived to dine in the same 
room with an Englishman; for she remembered as a girl, that twice, 
at the mere cry of "Los Ingleses," every soul, carrying what valuables 
they could, had taken to the mountains. 

1 4th. We reached Coquimbo, where we stayed a few days. The 
town is remarkable for nothing but its extreme quietness. It is said 
to contain from 6000 to 8000 inhabitants. On the morning of the 
i yth it rained lightly, the first time this year, for about five hours. 
The farmers, who plant corn near the sea-coast where the atmosphere 
is most humid, taking advantage of this shower, would break up the 
ground; after a second they would put the seed in; and if a third 
shower should fall, they would reap a good harvest in the spring. 
It was interesting to watch the effect of this trifling amount of mois- 
ture. Twelve hours afterwards the ground appeared as dry as ever; 
yet after an interval of ten days, all the hills were faintly tinged with 
green patches; the grass being sparingly scattered in hair-like fibres 
a full inch in length. Before this shower every part of the surface 
was bare as on a high road. 

In the evening, Captain Fitz Roy and myself were dining with 
Mr. Edwards, an English resident well known for his hospitality 
by all who have visited Coquimbo, when a sharp earthquake hap- 
pened. I heard the forecoming rumble, but from the screams of the 
ladies, the running of the servants, and the rush of several of the 
gentlemen to the doorway, I could not distinguish the motion. Some 
of the women afterwards were crying with terror, and one gentleman 
said he should not be able to sleep all night, or if he did, it would 
only be to dream of falling houses. The father of this person had 
lately lost all his property at Talcahuano, and he himself had only 
just escaped a falling roof at Valparaiso, in 1822. He mentioned a 
curious coincidence which then happened: he was playing at cards, 
when a German, one of the party, got up, and said he would never 
sit in a room in these countries with the door shut, as owing to 
his having done so, he had nearly lost his life at Copiapo. Accord- 


ingly he opened the door; and no sooner had he done this, than he 
cried out, "Here it comes again!" and the famous shock commenced. 
The whole party escaped. The danger in an earthquake is not from 
the time lost in opening the door, but from the chance of its becoming 
jammed by die movement of the walls. 

It is impossible to be much surprised at the fear which natives and 
old residents, though some of them known to be men of great com- 
mand of mind, so generally experience during earthquakes. I think, 
however, this excess of panic may be partly attributed to a want of 
habit in governing their fear, as it is not a feeling they are ashamed 
of. Indeed, the natives do not like to see a person indifferent. I 
heard of two Englishmen who, sleeping in the open air during a 
smart shock, knowing that there was no danger, did not rise. The 
natives cried out indignantly, "Look at those heretics, they do not 
even get out of their beds!" 

I spent some days in examining the step-formed terraces of shingle, 
first noticed by Captain B. Hall, and believed by Mr. Lyell to have 
been formed by the sea, during the gradual rising of the land. This 
certainly is -the true explanation, for I found numerous shells of 
existing species on these terraces. Five narrow, gently sloping, 
fringe-like terraces rise one behind the other, and where best devel- 
oped are formed of shingle: they front the bay, and sweep up both 
sides of the valley. At Guasco, north of Coquimbo, the phenomenon 
is displayed on a much grander scale, so as to strike with surprise 
even some of the inhabitants. The terraces are there much broader, 
and may be called plains; in some parts there are six of them, but 
generally only five; they run up the valley for thirty-seven miles 
from the coast. These step-formed terraces or fringes closely resem- 
ble those in the valley of S. Cruz, and, except in being on a smaller 
scale, those great ones along the whole coast-line of Patagonia. They 
have undoubtedly been formed by the denuding power of the sea, 
during long periods of rest in the gradual elevation of the conti- 

Shells of many existing species not only lie on the surface of the 
terraces at Coquimbo (to a height of 250 feet), but are embedded 
in a friable calcareous rock, which in some places is as much as 


between twenty and thirty feet in thickness, but is of little extent. 
These modern beds rest on an ancient tertiary formation containing 
shells, apparently all extinct. Although I examined so many hundred 
miles of coast on 'the Pacific, as well as Atlantic side of the continent, 
I found no regular strata containing sea-shells of recent species, 
excepting at this place, and at a few points northward on the road 
to Guasco. This fact appears to me highly remarkable; for the ex- 
planation generally given by geologists, of the absence in any district 
of stratified fossiliferous deposits of a given period, namely, that 
the surface then existed as dry land, is not here applicable; for we 
know from the shells strewed on the surface and embedded in loose 
sand or mould, that the land for thousands of miles along both coasts 
has lately been submerged. The explanation, no doubt, must be 
sought in the fact, that the whole southern part of the continent 
has been for a long time slowly rising; and therefore that all matter 
deposited along shore in shallow water, must have been soon brought 
up and slowly exposed to the wearing action of the sea-beach; and 
it is only in comparatively shallow water that the greater number of 
marine organic beings can flourish, and in such water it is obviously 
impossible that strata of any great thickness can accumulate. To 
show the vast power of the wearing action of sea-beaches, we need 
only appeal to the great cliffs along the present coast of Patagonia, 
and to the escarpments or ancient sea-cliffs at different levels, one 
above another, on that same line of coast. 

The old underlying tertiary formation at Coquimbo, appears to 
be of about the same age with several deposits on the coast of Chile 
(of which that of Navedad is the principal one), and with the great 
formation of Patagonia. Both at Navedad and in Patagonia there 
is evidence, that since the shells (a list of which has been seen by 
Professor E. Forbes) there entombed were living, there has been a 
subsidence of several hundred feet, as well as an ensuing elevation. 
It may naturally be asked, how it comes that, although no extensive 
fossiliferous deposits of the recent period, nor of any period inter- 
mediate between it and the ancient tertiary epoch, have been pre- 
served on either side of the continent, yet that at this ancient tertiary 
epoch, sedimentary matter containing fossil remains, should have 
been deposited and preserved at different points in north and south 
lines, over a space of noo miles on the shores of the Pacific, and of 


at least 1350 miles on the shores of the Atlantic, and in an east and 
west line of 700 miles across the widest part of the continent? I 
believe the explanation is not difficult, and that it is perhaps applica- 
ble to nearly analogous facts observed in other quarters of the world. 
Considering the enormous power of denudation which the sea 
possesses, as shown by numberless facts, it is not probable that a sedi- 
mentary deposit, when being upraised, could pass through the ordeal 
of the beach, so as to be preserved in sufficient masses to last to a 
distant period, without it were originally of wide extent and of con- 
siderable thickness: now it is impossible on a moderately shallow 
bottom, which alone is favourable to most living creatures, that a 
thick and widely extended covering of sediment could be spread out, 
without the bottom sank down to receive the successive layers. This 
seems to have actually taken place at about the same period in south- 
ern Patagonia and Chile, though these places are a thousand miles 
apart. Hence, if prolonged movements of approximately contem- 
poraneous subsidence are generally widely extensive, as I am strongly 
inclined to believe from my examination of the Coral Reefs of the 
great oceans or if, confining our view to South America, the sub- 
siding movements have been coextensive with those of elevation, by 
which, within the same period of existing shells, the shores of Peru, 
Chile, Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, and La Plata have been upraised 
then we can see that at the same time, at far distant points, cir- 
cumstances would have been favourable to the formation of fossilifer- 
ous deposits of wide extent and of considerable thickness; and such 
deposits, consequently, would have a good chance of resisting the 
wear and tear of successive beach-lines, and of lasting to a future 

May 2ist. I set out in company with Don Jose Edwards to the 
silver-mine of Arqueros, and thence up the valley of Coquimbo. 
Passing through a mountainous country, we reached by nightfall the 
mines belonging to Mr. Edwards. I enjoyed my night's rest here 
from a reason which will not be fully appreciated in England, 
namely, the absence of fleas! The rooms in Coquimbo swarm with 
them; but they will not live here at the height of only three or four 
thousand feet: it can scarcely be the trifling diminution of tempera- 
ture, but some other cause which destroys these troublesome insects 


at this place. The mines are now in a bad state, though they formerly 
yielded about 2000 pounds in weight of silver a year. It has been 
said that "a person with a copper-mine will gain; with silver he may 
gain; but with gold he is sure to lose." This is not true: all the large 
Chilian fortunes have been made by mines of the more precious 
metals. A short time since an English physician returned to England 
from Copiapo, taking with him the profits of one share of a silver- 
mine, which amounted to about 24,000 pounds sterling. No doubt 
a copper-mine with care is a sure game, whereas the other is gam- 
bling, or rather taking a ticket in a lottery. The owners lose great 
quantities of rich ores; for no precautions can prevent robberies. I 
heard of a gentleman laying a bet with another, that one of his men 
should rob him before his face. The ore when brought out of the 
mine is broken into pieces, and the useless stone thrown on one side. 
A couple of -the miners who were thus employed pitched, as if by 
accident, two fragments away at the same moment, and then cried 
out for a joke "Let us see which rolls furthest." The owner, who was 
standing by, bet a cigar with his friend on the race. The miner by 
;his means watched the very point amongst the rubbish where the 
stone lay. In the evening he picked it up and carried it to his master, 
showing him a rich mass of silver-ore, and saying, "This was the 
stone on which you won a cigar by its rolling so far." 

May 2yd. We descended into the fertile valley of Coquimbo, and 
followed it till we reached an Hacienda belonging to a relation of 
Don Jose, where we stayed the next day. I then rode one day's 
journey further, to see what were declared to be some petrified shells 
and beans, which latter turned out to be small quartz pebbles. We 
passed through several small villages; and the valley was beautifully 
cultivated, and the whole scenery very grand. We were here near the 
main Cordillera, and the surrounding hills were lofty. In all parts 
of northern Chile, fruit trees produce much more abundantly at a 
considerable height near the Andes than in the lower country. The 
hgs and grapes of this district are famous for their excellence, and 
are cultivated to a great extent. This valley is, perhaps, the most 
productive one north of Quillota. I believe it contains, including 
Coquimbo, 25,000 inhabitants. The next day I returned to the Ha- 
cienda, and thence, together with Don Jose, to Coquimbo. 


June 2nd. We set out for the valley of Guasco, following the 
coast-road, which was considered rather less desert than the other. 
Our first day's ride was to a solitary house, called Yerba Buena, 
where there was pasture for our horses. The shower mentioned as 
having fallen, a fortnight ago, only reached about half-way to 
Guasco; we had, therefore, in the first part of our journey a most 
faint tinge of green, which soon faded quite away. Even where 
brightest, it was scarcely sufficient to remind one of the fresh turf and 
budding flowers of the spring of other countries. While travelling 
through these deserts one feels like a prisoner shut up in a gloomy 
court, who longs to see something green and to smell a moist atmos- 

June $rd. Yerba Buena to Carizal. During the first part of the 
day we crossed a mountainous rocky desert, and afterwards a long 
deep sandy plain, strewed with broken sea-shells. There was very 
little water, and that little saline: the whole country, from the coast 
to the Cordillera, is an uninhabited desert. I saw traces only of one 
living animal in abundance, namely, the shells of a Bulknus, which 
were collected together in extraordinary numbers on the driest 
spots. In the spring one humble little plant sends out a few leaves, 
and on these the snails feed. As they are seen only very early in the 
morning, when the ground is slightly damp with dew, the Guascos 
believe that they are bred from it. I have observed in other places 
that extremely dry and sterile districts, where the soil is calcareous, 
are extraordinarily favourable to land-shells. At Carizal there were 
a few cottages, some brackish water, and a trace of cultivation: but 
it was with difficulty that we purchased a little corn and straw for 
our horses. 

qth. Carizal to Sauce. We continued to ride over desert plains, 
tenanted by large herds of guanaco. We crossed also the valley of 
Chaneral; which, although the most fertile one between Guasco and 
Coquimbo, is very narrow, and produces so little pasture, that we 
could not purchase any for our horses. At Sauce we found a very 
civil old gentleman, superintendent of a copper-smelting furnace. 
As an especial favour, he allowed me to purchase at a high price an 
armful of dirty straw, which was all the poor horses had for supper 
after their long day's journey. Few smelting-furnaces are now at 


work in any part of Chile; it is found more profitable, on, account 
of the extreme scarcity of firewood, and from the Chilian method of 
reduction being so unskilful, to ship the ore for Swansea. The next 
day we crossed some mountains to Freyrina, in the valley of Guasco. 
During each day's ride further northward, the vegetation became 
more and more scanty; even the great chandelier-like cactus was here 
replaced by a different and much smaller species. During the winter 
months, both in northern Chile and in Peru, a uniform bank of 
clouds hangs, at no great height, over the Pacific. From the moun- 
tains we had a very striking view of this white and brilliant aerial- 
field, which sent arms up the valleys, leaving islands and promon- 
tories in the same manner, as the sea does in the Chonos archipelago 
and in Tierra del Fuego. 

We stayed two days at Freyrina. In the valley of Guasco there 
are four small towns. At the mouth there is the port, a spot entirely 
desert, and without any water in the immediate neighbourhood. 
Five leagues higher up stands Freyrina, a long straggling village, 
with decent whitewashed houses. Again, ten leagues further up 
Ballenar is situated, and above this Guasco Alto, a horticultural vil- 
lage, famous for its dried fruit. On a clear day the view up the 
valley is very fine; the straight opening terminates in the far-distant 
snowy Cordillera; on each side an infinity of crossing-lines are 
blended together in a beautiful haze. The foreground is singular 
from the number of parallel and step-formed terraces; and the in- 
cluded strip of green valley, with its willow-bushes, is contrasted 
on both hands with the naked hills. That the surrounding country 
was most barren will be readily believed, when it is known that a 
shower of rain had not fallen during the last thirteen months. The 
inhabitants heard with the greatest envy of the rain at Coquimbo; 
from the appearance of the sky they had hopes of equally good 
fortune, which, a fortnight afterwards, were realized. I was at 
Copiapo at the time; and there the people, with equal envy, talked 
of the abundant rain at Guasco. After two or three very dry years, 
perhaps with not more than one shower during the whole time, a 
rainy year generally follows; and this does more harm than even the 
drought. The rivers swell, and cover with gravel and sand the nar- 
row strips of ground, which alone are fit for cultivation. The floods 


also injure the irrigating ditches. Great devastation had thus been 
caused three years ago. 

June 8th. We rode on to Ballenar, which takes its name from 
Ballenagh in Ireland, the birthplace of the family of O'Higgins, who, 
under the Spanish government, were presidents and generals in 
Chile. As the rocky 'mountains on each hand were concealed by 
clouds, the terrace-like plains gave to the valley an appearance like 
that of Santa Cruz in Patagonia. After spending one day at Ballenar 
I set out, on the loth, for the upper part of the valley of Copiapo. 
We rode all day over an uninteresting country. I am tired of repeat- 
ing the epithets barren and sterile. These words, however, as com- 
monly used, are comparative; I have always applied them to the 
plains of Patagonia, which can boast of spiny bushes and some tufts 
of grass; and this is absolute fertility, as compared with northern 
Chile. Here again, there are not many spaces of two hundred yards 
square, where some little bush, cactus or lichen, may not be discov- 
ered by careful examination; and in the soil seeds lie dormant ready 
to spring up during the first rainy winter. In Peru real deserts occur 
over wide tracts of country. In the evening we arrived at a valley, 
in which the bed of the streamlet was damp: following it up, we 
came to tolerably good water. During the night, the stream, from 
not being evaporated and absorbed so quickly, flows a league lower 
down than during the day. Sticks were plentiful for firewood, so 
that it was a good place to bivouac for us; but for the poor animals 
there was not a mouthful to eat. 

June nth. We rode without stopping for twelve hours, till we 
reached an old smelting-furnace, where there was water and fire- 
wood; but our horses again had nothing to eat, being shut up in an 
old courtyard. The line of road was hilly, and the distant views 
interesting, from the varied colours of the bare mountains. It was 
almost a pity to see the sun shining constantly over so useless a coun- 
try; such splendid weather ought to have brightened fields and pretty 
gardens. The next day we reached the valley of Copiapo. I was 
heartily glad of it; for the whole journey was a continued source 
of anxiety; it was most disagreeable to hear, whilst eating our 
own suppers, our horses gnawing the posts to which they were 
tied, and to have no means of relieving their hunger. To all 


appearance, however, the animals were quite fresh; and no one 
could have told that they had eaten nothing for the last fifty-five 

I had a letter of introduction to Mr. Bingley, who received me 
very kindly at the Hacienda of Potrero Seco. This estate is between 
twenty and thirty miles long, but very narrow, being generally only 
two fields wide, one on each side the river. In some parts the estate 
is of no width, that is to say, the land cannot be irrigated, and there- 
fore is valueless, like the surrounding rocky desert. The small quan- 
tity of cultivated land in the whole line of valley, does not so much 
depend on inequalities of level, and consequent unfitness for irriga- 
tion, as on the small supply of water. The river this year was 
remarkably full: here, high up the valley, it reached to the horse's 
belly, and was about fifteen yards wide, and rapid; lower down it 
becomes smaller and smaller, and is generally quite lost, as happened 
during one period of thirty years, so that not a drop entered the sea. 
The inhabitants watch a storm over the Cordillera with great inter- 
est; as one good fall of snow provides them with water for the 
ensuing year. This is of infinitely more consequence than rain in the 
lower country. Rain, as often as it falls, which is about once in every 
two or three years, is a great advantage, because the cattle and mules 
can for some time afterwards find a little pasture in the mountains. 
But without snow on the Andes, desolation extends throughout the 
valley. It is on record that three times nearly all the inhabitants 
have been obliged to emigrate to the south. This year there was 
plenty of water, and every man irrigated his ground as much as he 
chose; but it has frequently been necessary to post soldiers at the 
sluices, to see that each estate took only its proper allowance during 
so many hours in the week. The valley is said to contain 12,000 
souls, but its produce is sufficient only for three months in the year; 
the rest of the supply being drawn from Valparaiso and the south. 
Before the discovery of the famous silver-mines of Chanuncillo, 
Copiapo was in a rapid state of decay; but now it is in a very thriv- 
ing condition; and the town, which was completely overthrown by 
an earthquake, has been rebuilt. 

The valley of Copiapo, forming a mere ribbon of green in a desert, 
runs in a very southerly direction; so that it is of considerable length 
to its source in the Cordillera. The valleys of Guasco and Copiapo 


may both be considered as long narrow islands, separated from the 
rest of Chile by deserts of rock instead of by salt water. Northward 
of these, there is one other very miserable valley, called Paposo, 
which contains about two hundred souls; and then there extends 
the real desert of Atacama a barrier far worse than the most turbu- 
lent ocean. After staying a few days at Potrero Seco, I proceeded up 
the valley to the house of Don Benito Cruz, to whom I had a letter 
of introduction. I found him most hospitable; indeed it is impos- 
sible to bear too strong testimony to the kindness with which travel- 
lers are received in almost every part of South America. The next day 
I hired some mules to take me by the ravine of Jolquera into the 
central Cordillera. On the second night the weather seemed to fore- 
tell a storm of snow or rain, and whilst lying in our beds we felt a 
trifling shock of an earthquake. 

The connection between earthquakes and the weather has been 
often disputed : it appears to me to be a point of great interest, which 
is little understood. Humboldt has remarked in one part of the 
Personal Narrative, 1 that it would be difficult for any person who had 
long resided in New Andalusia, or in Lower Peru, to deny that there 
exists some connection between these phenomena: in another part, 
however, he seems to think the connection fanciful. At Guayaquil, 
it is said that a heavy shower in the dry season is invariably followed 
by an earthquake. In Northern Chile, from the extreme infrequency 
of rain, or even of weather foreboding rain, the probability of acci- 
dental coincidences becomes very small; yet the inhabitants are here 
most firmly convinced of some connection between the state of the 
atmosphere and of the trembling of the ground : I was much struck 
by this, when mentioning to some people at Copiapo that there had 
been a sharp shock at Coquimbo: they immediately cried out, "How 
fortunate! there will be plenty of pasture there this year." To their 
minds an earthquake foretold rain, as surely as rain foretold abund- 
ant pasture. Certainly it did so happen that on the very day of the 
earthquake, that shower of rain fell, which I have described as in 
ten days' time producing a thin sprinkling of grass. At other times 

1 Vol. iv. p. ii, and vol. ii. p. 217. For the remarks on Guayaquil, see Silliman's 
Journ., vol. xxiv. p. 384. For those on Tacna by Mr. Hamilton, see Trans, of 
British Association, 1840. For those on Coseguina see Mr. Caldcleugh in Phil. Trans., 
1835. In the former edition I collected several references on the coincidences be- 
tween sudden falls in the barometer and earthquakes; and between earthquakes and 


rain has followed earthquakes at a period of the year when it is a 
far greater prodigy than the earthquake itself: this happened after 
the shock of November, 1822, and again in 1829, at Valparaiso; also 
after that of September, 1833, at Tacna. A person must be somewhat 
habituated to the climate of these countries to perceive the extreme 
improbability of rain falling at such seasons, except as a consequence 
of some law quite unconnected with the ordinary course of the 
weather. In the cases of great volcanic eruptions, as that of Co- 
seguina, where torrents of rain fell at a time of the year most unusual 
for it, and "almost unprecedented in Central America," it is not 
difficult to understand that the volumes of vapour and clouds of 
ashes might have disturbed the atmospheric equilibrium. Humboldt 
extends this view to the case of earthquakes unaccompanied by erup- 
tions; but I can hardly conceive it possible, that the small quantity of 
aeriform fluids which then escape from the fissured ground, can 
produce such remarkable effects. There appears much probability in 
the view first proposed by Mr. P. Scrope, that when the barometer is 
low, and when rain might naturally be expected to fall, the dimin- 
ished pressure of the atmosphere over a wide extent of country, 
might well determine the precise day on which the earth, already 
stretched to the utmost by the subterranean forces, should yield, 
crack, and consequently tremble. It is, however, doubtful how far 
this idea will explain the circumstances of torrents of rain falling 
in the dry season during several days, after an earthquake unac- 
companied by an eruption; such cases seem to bespeak some more 
intimate connection between the atmospheric and subterranean 

Finding little of interest in this part of the ravine, we retraced 
our steps to the house of Don Benito, where I stayed two days col- 
lecting fossil shells and wood. Great prostrate silicified trunks of 
trees, embedded in a conglomerate, were extraordinarily numerous. 
I measured one, which was fifteen feet in circumference: how sur- 
prising it is that every atom of the woody matter in this great 
cylinder should have been removed and replaced by silex so perfecdy, 
that each vessel and pore is preserved! These trees flourished at about 
the period of our lower chalk; they all belonged to the fir-tribe. It 
was amusing to hear the inhabitants discussing the nature of the 


fossil shells which I collected, almost in the same terms as were used 
a century ago in Europe, namely, whether or not they had been 
thus ''born by nature." My geological examination of the country 
generally created a good deal of surprise amongst the Chilenos: it 
was long before they could be convinced that I was not hunting for 
mines. This was sometimes troublesome: I found the most ready 
way of explaining my employment, was to ask them how it was 
that they themselves were not curious concerning earthquakes and 
volcanos? why some springs were hot and others cold? why there 
were mountains in Chile, and not a hill in La Plata? These bare 
questions at once satisfied and silenced the greater number; some, 
however (like a few in England who are a century behindhand), 
thought that all such inquiries were useless and impious; and that 
it was quite sufficient that God had thus made the mountains. 

An order had recently been issued that all stray dogs should be 
killed, and we saw many lying dead on the road. A great number 
had lately gone mad, and several men had been bitten and had died 
in consequence. On several occasions hydrophobia has prevailed in 
this valley. It is remarkable thus to find so strange and dreadful a 
disease, appearing time after time in the same isolated spot. It has 
been remarked that certain villages in England are in like manner 
much more subject to this visitation than others. Dr. Unanue states 
that hydrophobia was first known in South America in 1803: this 
statement is corroborated by Azara and Ulloa having never heard 
of it in their time. Dr. Unanue says that it broke out in Central 
America, and slowly travelled southward. It reached Arequipa in 
1807; and it is said that some men there, who had not been bitten, 
were affected, as were some negroes, who had eaten a bullock which 
had died of hydrophobia. At lea forty-two people thus miserably 
perished. The disease came on between twelve and ninety days 
after the bite; and in those cases where it did come on, death ensued 
invariably within five days. After 1808, a long interval ensued with- 
out any cases. On inquiry, I did not hear of hydrophobia in Van 
Diemen's Land, or in Australia; and Burchell says, that during the 
five years he was at the Cape of Good Hope, he never heard of an 
instance of it. Webster asserts that at the Azores hydrophobia has 
never occurred; and the same assertion has been made with respect 


to Mauritius and St. Helena. 2 In so strange a disease some informa- 
tion might possibly be gained by considering the circumstances under 
which it originates in distant climates; for it is improbable that a 
dog already bitten, should have been brought to these distant coun- 

At night, a stranger arrived at the house of Don Benito, and asked 
permission to sleep there. He said he had been wandering about 
the mountains for seventeen days, having lost his way. He started 
from Guasco, and being accustomed to travelling in the Cordillera, 
did not expect any difficulty in following the track to Copiapo; but 
he soon became involved in a labyrinth of mountains, whence he 
could not escape. Some of his mules had fallen over precipices, and 
he had been in great distress. His chief difficulty arose from not 
knowing where to find water in the lower country, so that he was 
obliged to keep bordering the central ranges. 

We returned down the valley, and on the 22nd reached the town 
of Copiapo. The lower part of the valley is broad, forming a fine 
plain like that of Quillota. The town covers a considerable space 
of ground, each house possessing a garden : but it is an uncomfortable 
place, and the dwellings are poorly furnished. Every one seems 
bent on the one object of making money, and then migrating as 
quickly as possible. All the inhabitants are more or less directly 
concerned with mines; and mines and ores are the sole subjects of 
conversation. Necessaries of all sorts are extremely dear; as the dis- 
tance from the town to the port is eighteen leagues, and the land 
carriage very expensive. A fowl costs five or six shillings; meat is 
nearly as dear as in England; firewood, or rather sticks, are brought 
on donkeys from a distance of two and three days' journey within 
the Cordillera; and pasturage for animals is a shilling a day: all this 
for South America is wonderfully exorbitant. 

June 26th. I hired a guide and eight mules to take me into the 
Cordillera by a different line from my last excursion. As the coun- 
try was utterly desert, we took a cargo and a half of barley mixed 

2 Observa > sobre el Clima de Lima, p. 67. Azara's Travels, vol. i. p. 381. 
Ulloa's Voyage, vol. ii. p. 28. Burchell's Travels, vol. ii. p. 524. Webster's Descrip- 
tion of the Azores, p. 124. Voyage a 1'Isle de France par un Officier du Roi, torn. i. 
p. 248. Description of St. Helena, p. 123. 


with chopped straw. About two leagues above the town a broad 
valley called the "Despoblado," or uninhabited, branches off from 
that one by which we had arrived. Although a valley of the grand- 
est dimensions, and leading to a pass across the Cordillera, yet it is 
completely dry, excepting perhaps for a few days during some very 
rainy winter. The sides of the crumbling mountains were furrowed 
by scarcely any ravines; and the bottom of the main valley, filled 
with shingle, was smooth and nearly level. No considerable torrent 
could ever have flowed down this bed of shingle; for if it had, a 
great cliff-bounded channel, as in all the southern valleys, would 
assuredly have been formed. I feel little doubt that this valley, as 
well as those mentioned by travellers in Peru, were left in the state 
we now see them by the waves of the sea, as the land slowly rose. 
I observed in one place, where the Despoblado was joined by a 
ravine (which in almost any other chain would have been called 
a grand valley), that its bed, though composed merely of sand and 
gravel, was higher than that of its tributary. A mere rivulet of 
water, in the course of an hour, would have cut a channel for itself; 
but it was evident that ages had passed away, and no such rivulet 
had drained this great tributary. It was curious to behold the ma- 
chinery, if such a term may be used, for the drainage, all, with the 
last trifling exception, perfect, yet without any signs of action. Every 
one must have remarked how mud-banks, left by the retiring tide, 
imitate in miniature a country with hill and dale; and here we have 
the original model in rock, formed as the continent rose during the 
secular retirement of the ocean, instead of during the ebbing and 
flowing of the tides. If a shower of rain falls on the mud-bank, when 
left dry, it deepens the already-formed shallow lines of excavation; 
and so it is with the rain of successive centuries on the bank of rock 
and soil, which we call a continent. 

We rode on after it was dark, till we reached a side ravine with 
a small well, called "Agua amarga." The water deserved its name, 
for besides being saline it was most offensively putrid and bitter; 
so that we could not force ourselves to drink either tea or mate. 1 
suppose the distance from the river of Copiapo to this spot was at 
least twenty-five or thirty English miles; in the whole space there was 
not a single drop of water, the country deserving the name of desert 


in the strictest sense. Yet about half way we passed some old Indian 
ruins near Punta Gorda: I noticed also in front of some of the valleys, 
which branch off from the Despoblado, two piles of stones placed 
a little way apart, and directed so as to point up the mouths of these 
small valleys. My companions knew nothing about them, and only 
answered my queries by their imperturbable "quien sabe?" 

I observed Indian ruins in several parts of the Cordillera: the 
most perfect which I saw, were the Ruinas de Tambillos, in the 
Uspallata Pass. Small square rooms were there huddled together 
in separate groups: some of the doorways were yet standing; they 
were formed by a cross slab of stone only about three feet high. 
Ulloa has remarked on the lowness of the doors in the ancient Peru- 
vian dwellings. These houses, when perfect, must have been capable 
of containing a considerable number of persons. Tradition says, 
that they were used as halting-places for the Incas, when they crossed 
the mountains. Traces of Indian habitations have been discovered 
in many other parts, where it does not appear probable that they 
were used as mere resting-places, but yet where the land is as utterly 
unfit for any kind of cultivation, as it is near the Tambillos or at 
the Incas Bridge, or in the Portillo Pass, at all which places I saw 
ruins. In the ravine of Jajuel, near Aconcagua, where there is no pass, 
I heard of remains of houses situated at a great height, where it is 
extremely cold and sterile. At first I imagined that these buildings 
had been places of refuge, built by the Indians on the first arrival 
of the Spaniards; but I have since been inclined to speculate on the 
probability of a small change of climate. 

In this northern part of Chile, within the Cordillera, old Indian 
houses are said to be especially numerous: by digging amongst the 
ruins, bits of woollen articles, instruments of precious metals, and 
heads of Indian corn, are not unfrequently discovered: an arrow- 
head made of agate, and of precisely the same form with those now 
used in Tierra del Fuego, was given me. I am aware that the Peru- 
vian Indians now frequently inhabit most lofty and bleak situations; 
but at Copiapo I was assured by men who had spent their lives in 
travelling through the Andes, that there were very many (muchi- 
simas) buildings at heights so great as almost to border upon the 
perpetual snow, and in parts where there exist no passes, and where 


the land produces absolutely nothing, and what is still more extraor- 
dinary, where there is no water. Nevertheless it is the opinion of 
the people of the country (although they are much puzzled by the 
circumstance), that, from the appearance of the houses, the Indians 
must have used them as places of residence. In this valley, at Punta 
Gorda, the remains consisted of seven or eight square little rooms, 
which were of a similar form with those at Tambillos, but built 
chiefly of mud, which the present inhabitants cannot, either here or, 
according to Ulloa, in Peru, imitate in durability. They were situ- 
ated in the most conspicuous and defenceless position, at the bottom 
of the flat broad valley. There was no water nearer than three or 
four leagues, and that only in very small quantity, and bad: the 
soil was absolutely sterile; I looked in vain even for a lichen adhering 
to the rocks. At the present day, with the advantage of beasts of 
burden, a mine, unless it were very rich, could scarcely be worked 
here with profit. Yet the Indians formerly chose it as a place of 
residence! If at the present time two or three showers of rain were 
to fall annually, instead of one, as now is the case during as many 
years, a small rill of water would probably be formed in this great 
valley; and then, by irrigation (which was formerly so well under- 
stood by the Indians), the soil would easily be rendered sufficiently 
productive to support a few families. 

I have convincing proofs that this part of the continent of South 
America has been elevated near the coast at least from 400 to 500, 
and in some parts from 1000 to 1300 feet, since the epoch of existing 
shells; and further inland the rise possibly may have been greater. 
As the peculiarly arid character of the climate is evidently a conse- 
quence of the height of the Cordillera, we may feel almost sure that 
before the later elevations, the atmosphere could not have been so 
completely drained of its moisture as it now is; and as the rise has 
been gradual, so would have been the change in climate. On this 
notion of a change of climate since the buildings were inhabited, 
the ruins must be of extreme antiquity, but I do not think their 
preservation under the Chilian climate any great difficulty. We 
must also admit on this notion (and this perhaps is a greater 
difficulty) that man has inhabited South America for an immensely 
long period, inasmuch as any change of climate effected by the 


elevation of the land must have been extremely gradual. At Val- 
paraiso, within the last 220 years, the rise has been somewhat less 
than 19 feet: at Lima a sea-beach has certainly been upheaved from 
80 to 90 feet, within the Indo-human period: but such small eleva- 
tions could have had little power in deflecting the moisture-bringing 
atmospheric currents. Dr. Lund, however, found human skeletons 
in the caves of Brazil, the appearance of which induced him to be- 
lieve that the Indian race has existed during a vast lapse of time in 
South America. 

When at Lima, I conversed on these subjects 3 with Mr. Gill, a 
civil engineer, who had seen much of the interior country. He told 
me that a conjecture of a change of climate had sometimes crossed 
his mind; but that he thought that the greater portion of land, now 
incapable of cultivation, but covered with Indian ruins, had been 
reduced to this state by the water-conduits, which the Indians for- 
merly constructed on so wonderful a scale, having been injured by 
neglect and by subterranean movements. I may here mention, that 
the Peruvians actually carried their irrigating streams in tunnels 
through hills of solid rock. Mr. Gill told me, he had been employed 
professionally to examine one: he found the passage low, narrow, 
crooked, and not of uniform breadth, but of very considerable 
length. Is it not most wonderful that men should have attempted 
such operations, without the use of iron or gunpowder? Mr. Gill 
also mentioned to me a most interesting, and, as far as I am aware, 
quite unparalleled case, of a subterranean disturbance having changed 
the drainage of a country. Travelling from Casma to Huaraz (not 
very far distant from Lima), he found a plain covered with ruins 
and marks of ancient cultivation, but now quite barren. Near it 
was the dry course of a considerable river, whence the water for 
irrigation had formerly been conducted. There was nothing in the 
appearance of the water-course to indicate that the river had not 
flowed there a few years previously; in some parts, beds of sand 
and gravel were spread out; in others, the solid rock had been worn 

3 Temple, in his travels through Upper Peru, or Bolivia, in going from Potosi to 
Oruro, says, "I saw many Indian villages or dwellings in ruins, up even to the very 
tops of the mountains, attesting a former population where now all is desolate." He 
makes similar remarks in another place; but I cannot tell whether this desolation has 
been caused by a want of population, or by an altered condition of the land. 


into a broad channel, which in one spot was about 40 yards in breadth 
and 8 feet deep. It is self-evident that a person following up the 
course of a stream, will always ascend at a greater or less inclination : 
Mr. Gill, therefore, was much astonished, when walking up the bed 
of this ancient river, to find himself suddenly going down hill. He 
imagined that the downward slope had a fall of about 40 or 50 feet 
perpendicular. We here have unequivocal evidence that a ridge 
had been uplifted right across the old bed of a stream. From the 
moment the river-course was thus arched, the water must necessarily 
have been thrown back, and a new channel formed. From that 
moment, also, the neighbouring plain must have lost its fertilizing 
stream, and become a desert. 

June 2jth. We set out early in the morning, and by mid day 
reached the ravine of Paypote, where there is a tiny rill of water, 
with a little vegetation, and even a few algarroba trees, a kind 
of mimosa. From having fire-wood, a smelting-furnace had for- 
merly been built here: we found a solitary man in charge of it, 
whose sole employment was hunting guanacos. At night it froze 
sharply; but having plenty of wood for our fire, we kept ourselves 

28th. We continued gradually ascending, and the valley now 
changed into a ravine. During the day we saw several guanacos, 
and the track of the closely-allied species, the Vicuna: this latter ani- 
mal is pre-eminently alpine in its habits; it seldom descends much 
below the limit of perpetual snow, and therefore haunts even a 
more lofty and sterile situation than the guanaco. The only other 
animal which we saw in any number was a small fox: I suppose 
this animal preys on the mice and other small rodents, which, as 
long as there is the least vegetation, subsist in considerable numbers 
in very desert places. In Patagonia, even on the borders of the salinas, 
where a drop of fresh water can never be found, excepting dew, these 
little animals swarm. Next to lizards, mice appear to be able to sup- 
port existence on the smallest and driest portions of the earth even 
on islets in the midst of great oceans. 

The scene on all sides showed desolation, brightened and made 
palpable by a clear, unclouded sky. For a time such scenery is sub- 
lime, but this feeling cannot last, and then it becomes uninteresting. 


We bivouacked at the foot of the "primera linea," or the first line 
of the partition of waters. The streams, however, on the east side 
do not flow to the Atlantic, but into an elevated district, in the 
middle of which there is a large saline, or salt lake; thus forming a 
little Caspian Sea at the height, perhaps, of ten thousand feet. Where 
we slept, there were some considerable patches of snow, but they 
do not remain throughout the year. The winds in these lofty regions 
obey very regular laws: every day a fresh breeze blows up the valley, 
and at night, an hour or two after sunset, the air from the cold 
regions above descends as through a funnel. This night it blew a 
gale of wind, and the temperature must have been considerably be- 
low the freezing-point, for water in a vessel soon became a block of 
ice. No clothes seemed to oppose any obstacle to the air; I suffered 
very much from the cold, so that I could not sleep, and in the morn- 
ing rose with my body quite dull and benumbed. 

In the Cordillera further southward, people lose their lives from 
snowstorms; here, it sometimes happens from another cause. My 
guide, when a boy of fourteen years old, was passing the Cordillera 
with a party in the month of May; and while in the central parts, 
a furious gale of wind arose, so that the men could hardly cling on 
their mules, and stones were flying along the ground. The day was 
cloudless, and not a speck of snow fell, but the temperature was low. 
It is probable that the thermometer could not have stood very many 
degrees below the freezing-point, but the effect on their bodies, ill 
protected by clothing, must have been in proportion to the rapidity 
of the current of cold air. The gale lasted for more than a day; the 
men began to lose their strength, and the mules would not move 
onwards. My guide's brother tried to return, but he perished, and 
his body was found two years afterwards, lying by the side of his 
mule near the road, with the bridle still in his hand. Two other 
men in the party lost their fingers and toes; and out of two hundred 
mules and thirty cows, only fourteen mules escaped alive. Many 
years ago the whole of a large party are supposed to have perished 
from a similar cause, but their bodies to this day have never been 
discovered. The union of a cloudless sky, low temperature, and a 
furious gale of wind, must be, I should think, in all parts of the 
world an unusual occurrence. 


June 2<)th We gladly travelled down the valley to our former 
night's lodging, and thence to near the Agua amarga. On July ist 
we reached the valley of Copiapo. The smell of the fresh clover was 
quite delightful, after the scentless air of the dry, sterile Despoblado. 
Whilst staying in the town I heard an account from several of the 
inhabitants, of a hill in the neighbourhood which they called "El 
Bramador," the roarer or bellower. I did not at the time pay suffi- 
cient attention to the account; but, as far as I understood, the hill 
was covered by sand, and the noise was produced only when people, 
by ascending it, put the sand in motion. The same circumstances 
are described in detail on the authority of Seetzen and Ehrenberg, 4 
as the cause of the sounds which have been heard by many travellers 
on Mount Sinai near the Red Sea. One person with whom I con- 
versed had himself heard the noise: he described it as very surprising; 
and he distinctly stated that, although he could not understand how 
it was caused, yet it was necessary to set the sand rolling down the 
acclivity. A horse walking over dry coarse sand, causes a peculiar 
chirping noise from the friction of the particles; a circumstance which 
I several times noticed on the coast of Brazil. 

Three days afterwards I heard of the Beagle's arrival at the Port, 
distant eighteen leagues from the town. There is very little land 
cultivated down the valley; its wide expanse supports a wretched 
wiry grass, which even the donkeys can hardly eat. This poorness 
of the vegetation is owing to the quantity of saline matter with which 
the soil is impregnated. The Port consists of an assemblage of mis- 
erable little hovels, situated at the foot of a sterile plain. At present, 
as the river contains water enough to reach the sea, the inhabitants 
enjoy the advantage of having fresh water within a mile and a half, 
On the beach there were large piles of merchandise, and the little 
place had an air of activity. In the evening I gave my adios, with a 
hearty good-will, to my companion Mariano Gonzales, with whom 
I had ridden so many leagues in Chile. The next morning the Bea- 
gle sailed for Iquique. 

]nly i2th.We anchored in the port of Iquique, in lat. 20 12', 
on the coast of Peru. The town contains about a thousand inhabit- 

4 Edinburgh Phil. Journ., Jan., 1830, p. 74; and April, 1830, p. 258 also Daubeny 
on Volcanoes, p. 438; and Bengal Journ., vol. vii. p. 324. 


ants, and stands on a little plain of sand at the foot of a great wall 
of rock, 2000 feet in height, here forming the coast. The whole is 
utterly desert. A light shower of rain falls only once in very many 
years; and the ravines consequently are filled with detritus, and the 
mountain-sides covered by piles of fine white sand, even to a height 
of a thousand feet. During this season of the year a heavy bank of 
clouds, stretched over the ocean, seldom rises above the wall of 
rocks on the coast. The aspect of the place was most gloomy; the 
little port, with its few vessels, and small group of wretched houses, 
seemed overwhelmed and out of all proportion with the rest of 
the scene. 

The inhabitants live like persons on board a ship: every necessary 
comes from a distance: water is brought in boats from Pisagua, 
about forty miles northward, and is sold at the rate of nine reals (4$-. 
6d.) an eighteen-gallon cask: I bought a wine-bottle full for three- 
pence. In like manner firewood, and of course every article of food, 
is imported. Very few animals can be maintained in such a place: 
on the ensuing morning I hired with difficulty, at the price of four 
pounds sterling, two mules and a guide to take me to the nitrate of 
soda works. These are at present the support of Iquique. This salt 
was first exported in 1830: in one year an amount in value of one 
hundred thousand pounds sterling, was sent to France and England. 
It is principally used as a manure and in the manufacture of nitric 
acid: owing to its deliquescent property it will not serve for gun- 
powder. Formerly there were two exceedingly rich silver-mines in 
this neighbourhood, but their produce is now very small. 

Our arrival in the offing caused some little apprehension. Peru 
was in a state of anarchy; and each party having demanded a con- 
tribution, the poor town of Iquique was in tribulation, thinking the 
evil hour was come. The people had also their domestic troubles; 
a short time before, three French carpenters had broken open, dur- 
ing the same night, the two churches, and stolen all the plate: one 
of the robbers, however, subsequently confessed, and the plate was 
recovered. The convicts were sent to Arequipa, which though the 
capital of this province, is two hundred leagues distant; the govern- 
ment there thought it a pity to punish such useful workmen, who 
could make all sorts of furniture; and accordingly liberated them. 


Things being in this state, the churches were again broken open, 
but this time the plate was not recovered. The inhabitants became 
dreadfully enraged, and declaring that none but heretics would thus 
"eat God Almighty," proceeded to torture some Englishmen, with 
the intention of afterwards shooting them. At last the authorities 
interfered, and peace was established. 

In the morning I started for the saltpetre-works, a distance 
of fourteen leagues. Having ascended the steep coast-mountains by 
a zigzag sandy track, we soon came in view of the mines of Guanta- 
jaya and St. Rosa. These two small villages are placed at the very 
mouths of the mines; and being perched up on hills, they had a still 
more unnatural and desolate appearance than the town of Iquique. 
We did not reach the saltpetre-works till after sunset, having ridden 
all day across an undulating country, a complete and utter desert. 
The road was strewed with the bones and dried skins of many beasts 
of burden which had perished on it from fatigue. Excepting the 
Vultur aura, which preys on the carcasses, I saw neither bird, quad- 
ruped, reptile, nor insect. On the coast-mountains, at the height of 
about 2000 feet, where during this season the clouds generally hang, 
a very few cacti were growing in the clefts of rock; and the loose 
sand was strewed over with a lichen, which lies on the surface quite 
unattached. This plant belongs to the genus Cladonia, and somewhat 
resembles the reindeer lichen. In some parts it was in sufficient 
quantity to tinge the sand, as seen from a distance, of a pale yellow- 
ish colour. Further inland, during the whole ride of fourteen 
leagues, I saw only one other vegetable production, and that was 
a most minute yellow lichen, growing on the bones of the dead 
mules. This was the first true desert which I had seen: the effect on 
me was not impressive; but I believe this was owing to my having 
become gradually accustomed to such scenes, as I rode northward 
from Valparaiso, through Coquimbo, to Copiapo. The appearance 
of the country was remarkable, from being covered by a thick crust 
of common salt, and of a stratified saliferous alluvium, which seems 
to have been deposited as the land slowly rose above the level of 
the sea. The salt is white, very hard, and compact: it occurs in 
water-worn nodules projecting from the agglutinated sand, and is 


associated with much gypsum. The appearance of this superficial 
mass very closely resembled that of a country after snow, before the 
last dirty patches are thawed. The existence of this crust of a soluble 
substance over the whole face of the country, shows how extraor- 
dinarily dry the climate must have been for a long period. 

At night I slept at the house of the owner of one of the saltpetre 
mines. The country is here as unproductive as near the coast; but 
water, having rather a bitter and brackish taste, can be procured by 
digging wells. The well at this house was thirty-six yards deep: as 
scarcely any rain falls, it is evident the water is not thus derived; 
indeed if it were, it could not fail to be as salt as brine, for the whole 
surrounding country is incrusted with various saline substances. 
We must therefore conclude that it percolates under ground from 
the Cordillera, though distant many leagues. In that direction there 
are a few small villages, where the inhabitants, having more water, 
are enabled to irrigate a little land, and raise hay, on which the mules 
and asses, employed in carrying the saltpetre, are fed. The nitrate 
of soda was now selling at the ship's side at fourteen shillings per 
hundred pounds: the chief expense is its transport to the sea-coast. 
The mine consists of a hard stratum, between two and three feet 
thick, of the nitrate mingled with a little of the sulphate of soda and 
a good deal of common salt. It lies close beneath the surface, and 
follows for a length of one hundred and fifty miles the margin of 
a grand basin or plain; this, from its outline, manifestly must once 
have been a lake, or more probably an inland arm of the sea, as may 
be inferred from the presence of iodic salts in the saline stratum. 
The surface of the plain is 3300 feet above the Pacific. 

i<)th. We anchored in the Bay of Callao, the seaport of Lima, the 
capital of Peru. We stayed here six weeks, but from the troubled 
state of public affairs, I saw very little of the country. During our 
whole visit the climate was far from being so delightful, as it is 
generally represented. A dull heavy bank of clouds constantly hung 
over the land, so that during the first sixteen days I had only one 
view of the Cordillera behind Lima. These mountains, seen in 
stages, one above the other, through openings in the clouds, had a 
very grand appearance. It is almost become a proverb, that rain 
never falls in the lower part of Peru. Yet this can hardly be consid- 


ered correct; for during almost every day of our visit there was a 
thick drizzling mist, which was sufficient to make the streets muddy 
and one's clothes damp: this the people are pleased to call Peruvian 
dew. That much rain does not fall is very certain, for the houses are 
covered only with flat roofs made of hardened mud; and on the 
mole shiploads of wheat were piled up, being thus left for weeks 
together without any shelter. 

I cannot say I liked the very little I saw of Peru : in summer, how- 
ever, it is said that the climate is much pleasanter. In all seasons, 
both inhabitants and foreigners suffer from severe attacks of ague. 
This disease is common on the whole coast of Peru, but is unknown 
in the interior. The attacks of illness which arise from miasma 
never fail to appear most mysterious. So difficult is it to judge from 
the aspect of a country, whether or not it is healthy, that if a person 
had been told to choose within the tropics a situation appearing 
favourable for health, very probably he would have named this 
coast. The plain round the outskirts of Callao is sparingly covered 
with a coarse grass, and in some parts there are a few stagnant, 
though very small, pools of water. The miasma, in all probability, 
arises from these: for the town of Arica was similarly circumstanced, 
and its healthiness was much improved by the drainage of some 
little pools. Miasma is not always produced by a luxuriant vegeta- 
tion with an ardent climate; for many parts of Brazil, even where 
there are marshes and a rank vegetation, are much more healthy 
than this sterile coast of Peru. The densest forests in a temperate 
climate, as in Chiloe, do not seem in the slightest degree to affect the 
healthy condition of the atmosphere. 

The island of St. Jago, at the Cape de Verds, offers another 
strongly marked instance of a country, which any one would have 
expected to find most healthy, being very much the contrary. I have 
described the bare and open plains as supporting, during a few weeks 
after the rainy season, a thin vegetation, which directly withers away 
and dries up: at this period the air appears to become quite poison- 
ous; both natives and foreigners often being affected with violent 
fevers. On the other hand, the Galapagos Archipelago, in the Pa- 
cific, with a similar soil, and periodically subject to the same process 
of vegetation, is perfectly healthy. Humboldt has observed, that, 


"under the torrid zone, the smallest marshes are the most dangerous, 
being surrounded, as at Vera Cruz and Carthagena, with an arid 
and sandy soil, which raises the temperature of the ambient air." 5 
On the coast of Peru, however, the temperature is not hot to any 
excessive degree; and perhaps in consequence, the intermittent fevers 
are not of the most malignant order. In all unhealthy countries the 
greatest risk is run by sleeping on shore. Is this owing to the state 
of the body during sleep, or to a greater abundance of miasma at 
such times? It appears certain that those who stay on board a vessel, 
though anchored at only a short distance from the coast, generally 
suffer less than those actually on shore. On the other hand, I have 
heard of one remarkable case where a fever broke out among the 
crew of a man-of-war some hundred miles off the coast of Africa, 
and at the same time one of those fearful periods 6 of death com- 
menced at Sierra Leone. 

No state in South America, since the declaration of independence, 
has suffered more from anarchy than Peru. At the time of our visit, 
there were four chiefs in arms contending for supremacy in the 
government: if one succeeded in becoming for a time very powerful, 
the others coalesced against him; but no sooner were they victorious, 
than they were again hostile to each other. The other day, at the 
Anniversary of the Independence, high mass was performed, the 
President partaking of the sacrament: during the Te Deum lauda- 
mus, instead of each regiment displaying the Peruvian flag, a black 
one with death's head was unfurled. Imagine a government under 
which such a scene could be ordered, on such an occasion, to be 
typical of their determination of fighting to death! This state of 
affairs happened at a time very unfortunately for me, as I was 
precluded from taking any excursions much beyond the limits of the 
town. The barren island of St. Lorenzo, which forms the harbour, 
was nearly the only place where one could walk securely. The 
upper part, which is upwards of 1000 feet in height, during this 
season of the year (winter), comes within the lower limit of the 

5 Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, vol. iv. p. 199. 

8 A similar interesting case is recorded in the Madras Medical Quart. Journ., 1839, 
p. 340. Dr. Ferguson, in his admirable Paper (see 9th vol. of Edinburgh Royal 
Trans.), shows clearly that the poison is generated in the drying process; and hence 
that dry hot countries are often the most unhealthy. 


clouds; and in consequence, an abundant cryptogamic vegetation, 
and a few flowers cover the summit. On the hills near Lima, at a 
height but little greater, the ground is carpeted with moss, and beds 
of beautiful yellow lilies, called Amancaes. This indicates a very 
much greater degree of humidity, than at a corresponding height at 
Iquique. Proceeding northward of Lima, the climate becomes 
damper, till on the banks of the Guayaquil, nearly under the equator, 
we find the most luxuriant forests. The change, however, from the 
sterile coast of Peru to that fertile land is described as taking place 
rather abruptly in the latitude of Cape Blanco, two degrees south 
of Guayaquil. 

Callao is a filthy, ill-built, small seaport. The inhabitants, both 
here and at Lima, present every imaginable shade of mixture, be- 
tween European, Negro, and Indian blood. They appear a depraved, 
drunken set of people. The atmosphere is loaded with foul smells, 
and that peculiar one, which may be perceived in almost every town 
within the tropics, was here very strong. The fortress, which with- 
stood Lord Cochrane's long siege, has an imposing appearance. But 
the President, during our stay, sold the brass guns, and proceeded to 
dismantle parts of it. The reason assigned was, that he had not an 
officer to whom he could trust so important a charge. He himself 
had good reason for thinking so, as he had obtained the president- 
ship by rebelling while in charge of this same fortress. After we left 
South America, he paid the penalty in the usual manner, by being 
conquered, taken prisoner, and shot. 

Lima stands on a plain in a valley, formed during the gradual 
retreat of the sea. It is seven miles from Callao, and is elevated 500 
feet above it; but from the slope being very gradual, the road appears 
absolutely level; so that when at Lima it is difficult to believe one 
has ascended even one hundred feet: Humboldt has remarked on 
this singularly deceptive case. Steep, barren hills rise like islands 
from the plain, which is divided, by straight mud-walls, into large 
green fields. In these, scarcely a tree grows excepting a few willows 
and an occasional clump of bananas and of oranges. The city of 
Lima is now in a wretched state of decay: the streets are nearly 
unpaved; and heaps of filth are piled up in all directions, where the 
black gallinazos, tame as poultry, pick up bits of carrion. The houses 


have generally an upper story, built on account of the earthquakes, 
of plastered woodwork; but some of the old ones, which are now 
used by several families, are immensely large, and would rival in 
suites of apartments the most magnificent in any place. Lima, the 
City of the Kings, must formerly have been a splendid town. The 
extraordinary number of churches gives it, even at the present day, 
a peculiar and striking character, especially when viewed from a 
short distance. 

One day I went out with some merchants to hunt in the immedi- 
ate vicinity of the city. Our sport was very poor; but I had an 
opportunity of seeing the ruins of one of the ancient Indian villages, 
with its mound like a natural hill in the centre. The remains of 
houses, enclosures, irrigating streams, and burial mounds, scattered 
over this plain, cannot fail to give one a high idea of the condition 
and number of the ancient population. When their earthenware, 
woollen clothes, utensils of elegant forms cut out of the hardest 
rocks, tools of copper, ornaments of precious stones, palaces, and 
hydraulic works, are considered, it is impossible not to respect the 
considerable advance made by them in the arts of civilization. The 
burial mounds, called Huacas, are really stupendous; although 
in some places they appear to be natural hills incased and mod- 

There is also another and very different class of ruins, which 
possesses some interest, namely, those of old Callao, overwhelmed 
by the great earthquake of 1746, and its accompanying wave. The 
destruction must have been more complete even than at Talcahuano. 
Quantities of shingle almost conceal the foundations of the walls, 
and vast masses of brickwork appear to have been whirled about 
like pebbles by the retiring waves. It has been stated that the land 
subsided during this memorable shock: I could not discover any 
proof of this; yet it seems far from improbable, for the form of the 
coast must certainly have undergone some change since the founda- 
tion of the old town; as no people in their senses would willingly 
have chosen for their building place, the narrow spit of shingle on 
which the ruins now stand. Since our voyage, M. Tschudi has come 
to the conclusion, by the comparison of old and modern maps, that 
the coast both north and south of Lima has certainly subsided. 


On the island of San Lorenzo, there are very satisfactory proofs 
of elevation within the recent period; this of course is not opposed to 
the belief, of a small sinking of the ground having subsequently 
taken place. The side of this island fronting the Bay of Callao, is 
worn into three obscure terraces, the lower one of which is covered 
by a bed a mile in length, almost wholly composed of shells of 
eighteen species, now living in the adjoining sea. The height of 
this bed is eighty-five feet. Many of the shells are deeply corroded, 
and have a much older and more decayed appearance than those 
at the height of 500 or 600 feet on the coast of Chile. These shells 
are associated with much common salt, a little sulphate of lime (both 
probably left by the evaporation of the spray, as the land slowly rose), 
together with sulphate of soda and muriate of lime. They rest on 
fragments of the underlying sandstone, and are covered by a few 
inches thick of detritus. The shells, higher up on this terrace, could 
be traced scaling of? in flakes, and falling into an impalpable pow- 
der; and on an upper terrace, at the height of 170 feet, and likewise 
at some considerably higher points, I found a layer of saline powder 
of exactly similar appearance, and lying in the same relative position. 
I have no doubt that this upper layer originally existed as a bed of 
shells, like that on the eighty-five-feet ledge; but it does not now 
contain even a trace of organic structure. The powder has been 
analyzed for me by Mr. T. Reeks; it consists of sulphates and muri- 
ates both of lime and soda, with very little carbonate of lime. It is 
known that common salt and carbonate of lime left in a mass for 
some time together, partly decompose each other; though this does 
not happen with small quantities in solution. As the half-decom- 
posed shells in the lower parts are associated with much common 
salt, together with some of the saline substances composing the 
upper saline layer, and as these shells are corroded and decayed in 
a remarkable manner, I strongly suspect that this double decomposi- 
tion has here taken place. The resultant salts, however, ought to 
be carbonate of soda and muriate of lime; the latter is present, but 
not the carbonate of soda. Hence I am led to imagine that by some 
unexplained means, the carbonate of soda becomes changed into 
the sulphate. It is obvious that the saline layer could not have been 
preserved in any country in which abundant rain occasionally fell: 


on the other hand, this very circumstance, which at first sight ap- 
pears so highly favourable to the long preservation of exposed shells, 
has probably been the indirect means, through the common salt 
not having been washed away, of their decomposition and early 

I was much interested by finding on the terrace, at the height of 
eighty-five feet, embedded amidst the shells and much sea-drifted 
rubbish, some bits of cotton thread, plaited rush, and the head of a 
stalk of Indian corn : I compared these relics with similar ones taken 
out of the Huacas, or old Peruvian tombs, and found them identical 
in appearance. On the mainland in front of San Lorenzo, near 
Bellavista, there is an extensive and level plain about a hundred feet 
high, of which the lower part is formed of alternating layers of sand 
and impure clay, together with some gravel, and the surface, to the 
depth of from three to six feet, of a reddish loam, containing a few 
scattered sea-shells and numerous small fragments of coarse red 
earthenware, more abundant at certain spots than at others. At first I 
was inclined to believe that this superficial bed, from its wide 
extent and smoothness, must have been deposited beneath the sea; 
but I afterwards found in one spot, that it lay on an artificial floor 
of round stones. It seems, therefore, most probable that at a period 
when the land stood at a lower level there was a plain very similar 
to that now surrounding Callao, which being protected by a shingle 
beach, is raised but very little above the level of the sea. On this 
plain, with its underlying red-clay beds, I imagine that the Indians 
manufactured their earthen vessels; and that, during some violent 
earthquake, the sea broke over the beach, and converted the plain 
into a temporary lake, as happened round Callao in 1713 and 1746. 
The water would then have deposited mud, containing fragments 
of pottery from the kilns, more abundant at some spots than at 
others, and shells from the sea. This bed, with fossil earthenware, 
stands at about the same height with the shells on the lower terrace 
of San Lorenzo, in which the cotton-thread and other relics were 

Hence we may safely conclude, that within the Indo-human period 
there has been an elevation, as before alluded to, of more than eighty- 
five feet; for some little elevation must have been lost by the coast 


having subsided since the old maps were engraved. At Valparaiso, 
although in the 220 years before our visit, the elevation cannot have 
exceeded nineteen feet, yet subsequently to 1817, there has been a 
rise, partly insensible and partly by a start during the shock of 1822, 
of ten or eleven feet. The antiquity of the Indo-human race here, 
judging by the eighty-five feet rise of the land since the relics were 
embedded, is the more remarkable, as on the coast of Patagonia, 
when the land stood about the same number of feet lower, the 
Macrauchenia was a living beast; but as the Patagonian coast is some 
way distant from the Cordillera, the rising there may have been 
slower than here. At Bahia Blanca, the elevation has been only a 
few feet since the numerous gigantic quadrupeds were there en- 
tombed; and, according to the generally received opinion, when 
these extinct animals were living, man did not exist. But the rising 
of that part of the coast of Patagonia, is perhaps no way connected 
with the Cordillera, but rather with a line of old volcanic rocks in 
Banda Oriental, so that it may have been infinitely slower than on 
the shores of Peru. All these speculations, however, must be vague; 
for who will pretend to say that there may not have been several 
periods of subsidence, intercalated between the movements of eleva- 
tion; for we know that along the whole coast of Patagonia, there 
have certainly been many and long pauses in the upward action of 
the elevatory forces. 


The whole Group Volcanic Numbers of Craters Leafless Bushes 
Colony at Charles Island James Island Salt-lake in Crater Natural 
History of the Group Ornithology, curious Finches Reptiles Great 
Tortoises, habits of Marine Lizard, feeds on Seaweed Terrestrial 
Lizard, burrowing habits, herbivorous Importance of Reptiles in the 
Archipelago Fish, Shells, Insects Botany American Type of Organ- 
ization Differences in the Species or Races on different Islands 
Tameness of the Birds Fear of Man, an acquired Instinct. 

f^EPTEMBER i$th. This archipelago consists of ten prin- 
\ cipal islands, of which five exceed the others in size. They 
Vj are situated under the Equator, and between five and six 
hundred miles westward of the coast of America. They are all 
formed of volcanic rocks; a few fragments of granite curiously 
glazed and altered by the heat, can hardly be considered as an ex- 
ception. Some of the craters, surmounting the larger islands, are 
of immense size, and they rise to a height of between three and 
four thousand feet. Their flanks are studded by innumerable 
smaller orifices. I scarcely hesitate to affirm, that there must be in 
the whole archipelago at least two thousand craters. These consist 
either of lava or scoria?, or of finely-stratified, sandstone-like tuff. 
Most of the latter are beautifully symmetrical; they owe their origin 
to eruptions of volcanic mud without any lava: it is a remarkable 
circumstance that every one of the twenty-eight tuff-craters which 
were examined, had their southern sides either much lower than 
the other sides, or quite broken down and removed. As all these 
craters apparently have been formed when standing in the sea, 
and as the waves from the trade wind and the swell from the 
open Pacific here unite their forces on the southern coasts of 
all the islands, this singular uniformity in the broken state of 
the craters, composed of the soft and yielding tuff, is easily ex- 



Considering that these islands are placed directly under the 
equator, the climate is far from being excessively hot; this seems 
chiefly caused by the singularly low temperature of the surrounding 
water, brought here by the great southern Polar current. Excepting 
during one short season, very little rain falls, and even then it is 
irregular; but the clouds generally hang low. Hence, whilst the 


Wenman / 

bingdon / 

r owerf 


thatham L 

lower parts of the islands are very sterile, the upper parts, at a 
height of a thousand feet and upwards, possess a damp climate and 
a tolerably luxuriant vegetation. This is especially the case on the 
windward sides of the islands, which first receive and condense 
the moisture from the atmosphere. 

In the morning (lyth) we landed on Chatham Island, which, 
like the others, rises with a tame and rounded outline, broken here 
and there by scattered hillocks, the remains of former craters. Noth- 
ing could be less inviting than the first appearance. A broken field 
of black basaltic lava, thrown into the most rugged waves, and 


crossed by great fissures, is everywhere covered by stunted, sun- 
burnt brushwood, which shows little signs of life. The dry and 
parched surface, being heated by the noon-day sun, gave to the air 
a close and sultry feeling, like that from a stove: we fancied even 
that the bushes smelt unpleasantly. Although I diligently tried to 
collect as many plants as possible, I succeeded in getting very few; 
and such wretched-looking little weeds would have better become 
an arctic than an equatorial Flora. The brushwood appears, from 
a short distance, as leafless as our trees during winter; and it was 
some time before I discovered that not only almost every plant was 
now in full leaf, but that the greater number were in flower. The 
commonest bush is one of the Euphorbiaceae : an acacia and a great 
odd-looking cactus are the only trees which afTord any shade. After 
the season of heavy rains, the islands are said to appear for a short 
time partially green. The volcanic island of Fernando Noronha, 
placed in many respects under nearly similar conditions, is the only 
other country where I have seen a vegetation at all like this of the 
Galapagos Islands. 

The Beagle sailed round Chatham Island, and anchored in sev- 
eral bays. One night I slept on shore on a part of the island, where 
black truncated cones were extraordinarily numerous: from one 
small eminence I counted sixty of them, all surmounted by craters 
more or less perfect. The greater number consisted merely of a 
ring of red scoriae or slags, cemented together: and their height 
above the plain of lava was not more than from fifty to a hundred 
feet; none had been very lately active. The entire surface of this 
part of the island seems to have been permeated, like a sieve, by the 
subterranean vapours: here and there the lava, whilst soft, has been 
blown into great bubbles; and in other parts, the tops of caverns 
similarly formed have fallen in, leaving circular pits with steep 
sides. From the regular form of the many craters, they gave to the 
country an artificial appearance, which vividly reminded me of 
those parts of Staffordshire, where the great iron-foundries are 
most numerous. The day was glowing hot, and the scrambling over 
the rough surface and through the intricate thickets, was very 
fatiguing; but I was well repaid by the strange Cyclopean scene. 
As I was walking along I met two large tortoises, each of which 


must have weighed at least two hundred pounds: one was eating a 
piece of cactus, and as I approached, it stared at me and slowly 
walked away; the other gave a deep hiss, and drew in its head. 
These huge reptiles, surrounded by the black lava, the leafless 
shrubs, and large cacti, seemed to my fancy like some antediluvian 
animals. The few dull-coloured birds cared no more for me than 
they did for the great tortoises. 

2jrd. The Beagle proceeded to Charles Island. This archipelago 
has long been frequented, first by the bucaniers, and latterly by 
whalers, but it is only within the last six years, that a small colony 
has been established here. The inhabitants are between two and 
three hundred in number; they are nearly all people of colour, who 
have been banished for political crimes from the Republic of the 
Equator, of which Quito is the capital. The settlement is placed 
about four and a half miles inland, and at a height probably of a 
thousand feet. In the first part of the road we passed through 
leafless thickets, as in Chatham Island. Higher up, the woods 
gradually became greener; and as soon as we crossed the ridge of 
the island, we were cooled by a fine southerly breeze, and our sight 
refreshed by a green and thriving vegetation. In this upper region 
coarse grasses and ferns abound; but there are no tree-ferns: I saw 
nowhere any member of the palm family, which is the more singu- 
lar, as 360 miles northward, Cocos Island takes its name from the 
number of cocoa-nuts. The houses are irregularly scattered over a 
flat space of ground, which is cultivated with sweet potatoes and 
bananas. It will not easily be imagined how pleasant the sight of 
black mud was to us, after having been so long accustomed to the 
parched soil of Peru and northern Chile. The inhabitants, although 
complaining of poverty, obtain, without much trouble, the means of 
subsistence. In the woods there are many wild pigs and goats; but 
the staple article of animal food is supplied by the tortoises. Their 
numbers have of course been greatly reduced in this island, but the 
people yet count on two days' hunting giving them food for the rest 
of the week. It is said that formerly single vessels have taken away 
as many as seven hundred, and that the ship's company of a frigate 
some years since brought down in one day two hundred tortoises 
to the beach. 


September 2()th. We doubled the south-west extremity of Albe- 
marle Island, and the next day were nearly becalmed between it and 
Narborough Island. Both are covered with immense deluges of 
black naked lava, which have flowed either over the rims of the great 
caldrons, like pitch over the rim of a pot in which it has been 
boiled, or have burst forth from smaller orifices on the flanks; in 
their descent they have spread over miles of the sea-coast. On both 
of these islands, eruptions are known to have taken place; and in 
Albemarle, we saw a small jet of smoke curling from the summit 
of one of the great craters. In the evening we anchored in Bank's 
Cove, in Albemarle Island. The next morning I went out walking. 
To the south of the broken tuff-crater, in which the Beagle was 
anchored, there was another beautifully symmetrical one of an 
elliptic form; its longer axis was a little less than a mile, and its 
depth about 500 feet. At its bottom there was a shallow lake, in 
the middle of which a tiny crater formed an islet. The day was 
overpoweringly hot, and the lake looked clear and blue: I hurried 
down the cindery slope, and, choked with dust, eagerly tasted the 
water but, to my sorrow, I found it salt as brine. 

The rocks on the coast abounded with great black lizards, be- 
tween three and four feet long; and on the hills, an ugly yellowish- 
brown species was equally common. We saw many of this latter 
kind, some clumsily running out of the way, and others shuffling 
into their burrows. I shall presently describe in more detail the 
habits of both these reptiles. The whole of this northern part of 
Albemarle Island is miserably sterile. 

October 8th. We arrived at James Island: this island, as well as 
Charles Island, were long since thus named after our kings of the 
Stuart line. Mr. Bynoe, myself, and our servants were left here for 
a week, with provisions and a tent, whilst the Beagle went for water. 
We found here a party of Spaniards, who had been sent from 
Charles Island to dry fish, and to salt tortoise-meat. About six miles 
inland, and at the height of nearly 2000 feet, a hovel had been built 
in which two men lived, who were employed in catching tortoises, 
whilst the others were fishing on the coast. I paid this party two 
visits, and slept there one night. As in the other islands, the lower 


region was covered by nearly leafless bushes, but the trees were 
here of a larger growth than elsewhere, several being two feet and 
some even two feet nine inches in diameter. The upper region 
being kept damp by the clouds, supports a green and flourishing 
vegetation. So damp was the ground, .that there were large beds 
of a coarse cyperus, in which great numbers of a very small water- 
rail lived and bred. While staying in this upper region, we lived 
entirely upon tortoise-meat: the breast-plate roasted (as the Gauchos 
do came con cuero), with the flesh on it, is very good; and the 
young tortoises make excellent soup; but otherwise the meat to my 
taste is indifferent. 

One day we accompanied a party of the Spaniards in their whale- 
boat to a salina, or lake from which salt is procured. After land- 
ing, we had a very rough walk over a rugged field of recent lava, 
which has almost surrounded a tuff-crater, at the bottom of which 
the salt-lake lies. The water is only three or four inches deep, and 
rests on a layer of beautifully crystallized, white salt. The lake is 
quite circular, and is fringed with a border of bright green succu- 
lent plants; the almost precipitous walls of the crater are clothed 
with wood, so that the scene was altogether both picturesque and 
curious. A few years since, the sailors belonging to a sealing-vessel 
murdered their captain in this quiet spot; and we saw his skull 
lying among the bushes. 

During the greater part of our stay of a week, the sky was cloud- 
less, and if the trade-wind failed for an hour, the heat became very 
oppressive. On two days, the thermometer within the tent stood for 
some hours at 93; but in the open air, in the wind and sun, at 
only 85. The sand was extremely hot; the thermometer placed in 
some of a brown colour immediately rose to 137, and how much 
above that it would have risen, I do not know, for it was not gradu- 
ated any higher. The black sand felt much hotter, so that even in 
thick boots it was quite disagreeable to walk over it. 

The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and 
well deserves attention. Most of the organic productions are abo- 
riginal creations, found nowhere else; there is even a difference be- 


tween the inhabitants of the different islands; yet all show a marked 
relationship with those of America, though separated from that 
continent by an open space of ocean, between 500 and 600 miles in 
width. The archipelago is a little world within itself, or rather a 
satellite attached to America, whence it has derived a few stray 
colonists, and has received the general character of its indigenous 
productions. Considering the small size of the islands, we feel the 
more astonished at the number of their aboriginal beings, and at 
their confined range. Seeing every height crowned with its crater, 
and the boundaries of most of the lava-streams still distinct, we are 
led to believe that within a period geologically recent the unbroken 
ocean was here spread out. Hence, both in space and time, we 
seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact that mystery 
of mysteries the first appearance of new beings on this earth. 

Of terrestrial mammals, there is only one which must be con- 
sidered as indigenous, namely, a mouse (Mus Galapagoensis) , and 
this is confined, as far as I could ascertain, to Chatham Island, the 
most easterly island of the group. It belongs, as I am informed by 
Mr. Waterhouse, to a division of the family of mice characteristic 
of America. At James Island, there is a rat sufficiently distinct 
from the common kind to have been named and described by Mr. 
Waterhouse; but as it belongs to the old-world division of the 
family, and as this island has been frequented by ships for the last 
hundred and fifty years, I can hardly doubt that this rat is merely 
a variety produced by the new and peculiar climate, food, and soil, 
to which it has been subjected. Although no one has a right to 
speculate without distinct facts, yet even with respect to the Chat- 
ham Island mouse, it should be borne in mind, that it may possibly 
be an American species imported here; for I have seen, in a most 
unfrequented part of the Pampas, a native mouse living in the roof 
of a newly built hovel, and therefore its transportation in a vessel 
is not improbable: analogous facts have been observed by Dr. 
Richardson in North America. 

Of land-birds I obtained twenty-six kinds, all peculiar to the 
group and found nowhere else, with the exception of one lark-like 
finch from North America (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), which ranges 
on that continent as far north as 54, and generally frequents 


marshes. The other twenty-five birds consist, firstly, of a hawk, 
curiously intermediate in structure between a buzzard and the 
American group of carrion-feeding Polybori; and with these latter 
birds it agrees most closely in every habit and even tone of voice. 
Secondly, there are two owls, representing the short-eared and white 
barn-owls of Europe. Thirdly, a wren, three tyrant-flycatchers 
(two of them species of Pyrocephalus, one or both of which would 
be ranked by some ornithologists as only varieties), and a dove- 
all analogous to, but distinct from, American species. Fourthly, a 
swallow, which though differing from the Progne purpurea of 
both Americas, only in being rather duller colored, smaller, and 
slenderer, is considered by Mr. Gould as specifically distinct. Fifthly, 
there are three species of mocking thrush a form highly charac- 
teristic of America. The remaining land-birds form a most singular 
group of finches, related to each other in the structure of their beaks, 
short tails, form of body and plumage: there are thirteen species, 
which Mr. Gould has divided into four sub-groups. All these 
species are peculiar to this archipelago; and so is the whole group, 
with the exception of one species of the sub-group Cactornis, lately 
brought from Bow Island, in the Low Archipelago. Of Cactornis, 
the two species may be often seen climbing about the flowers of the 
great cactus-trees; but all the other species of this group of finches, 
mingled together in flocks, feed on the dry and sterile ground of the 
lower districts. The males of all, or certainly of the greater num- 
ber, are jet black; and the females (with perhaps one or two excep- 
tions) are brown. The most curious fact is the perfect gradation in 
the size of the beaks in the different species of Geospiza, from one 
as large as that of a hawfinch to that of a chaffinch, and (if Mr. 
Gould is right in including his sub-group, Certhidea, in the main 
group) even to that of a warbler. The largest beak in the genus 
Geospiza is shown in Fig. i, and the smallest in Fig. 3; but instead 
of there being only one intermediate species, with a beak of the size 
shown in Fig. 2, there are no less than six species with insensibly- 
graduated beaks. The beak of the sub-group Certhidea, is shown in 
Fig. 4. The beak of Cactornis is somewhat like that of a starling; 
and that of the fourth sub-group, Camarhynchus, is slightly parrot- 
shaped. Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one 


small, intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that 
from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species 
had been taken and modified for different ends. In a like manner 
it might be fancied that a bird originally a buzzard, had been in- 
duced here to undertake the office of the carrion-feeding Polybori 
of the American continent. 

Of waders and water-birds I was able to get only eleven kinds, 
and of these only three (including a rail confined to the damp 

I. Geospiza magnirostris. 
3. Geospiza parvula. 

2. Geospiza fortis. 
4. Certhidea olivasea. 

summits of the islands) are new species. Considering the wander- 
ing habits of the gulls, I was surprised to find that the species inhab- 
iting these islands is peculiar, but allied to one from the southern 
parts of South America. The far greater peculiarity of the land- 
birds, namely, twenty-five out of twenty-six, being new species, or at 
least new races, compared with the waders and web-footed birds, 
is in accordance with the greater range which these latter orders 
have in all parts of the world. We shall hereafter see this law of 
aquatic forms, whether marine or fresh- water, being less peculiar 
at any given point of the earth's surface than the terrestrial forms of 
the same classes, strikingly illustrated in the shells, and in a lesser 
degree in the insects of this archipelago. 


Two of the waders are rather smaller than the same species 
brought from other places: the swallow is also smaller, though it is 
doubtful whether or not it is distinct from its analogue. The two 
owls, the two tyrant<atchers (Pyrocephalus) and the dove, are also 
smaller than the analogous but distinct species, to which they are 
most nearly related; on the other hand, the gull is rather larger. 
The two owls, the swallow, all three species of mocking-thrush, the 
dove in its separate colours though not in its whole plumage, the 
Totanus, and the gull, are likewise duskier coloured than their 
analogous species; and in the case of the mocking-thrush and 
Totanus, than any other species of the two genera. With the ex- 
ception of a wren with a fine yellow breast, and of a tyrant-fly- 
catcher with a scarlet tuft and breast, none of the birds are bril- 
liantly coloured, as might have been expected in an equatorial dis- 
trict. Hence it would appear probable, that the same causes which 
here make the immigrants of some peculiar species smaller, make 
most of the peculiar Galapageian species also smaller, as well as 
very generally more dusky coloured. All the plants have a wretched, 
weedy appearance, and I did not see one beautiful flower. The in- 
sects, again, are small-sized and dull-coloured, and, as Mr. Water- 
house informs me, there is nothing in their general appearance 
which would have led him to imagine that they had come from 
under the equator. 1 The birds, plants, and insects have a desert 
character, and are not more brilliantly coloured than those from 
southern Patagonia; we may, therefore, conclude that the usual 
gaudy colouring of the inter-tropical productions, is not related 
either to the heat or light of those zones, but to some other cause, 
perhaps to the conditions of existence being generally favourable 
to life. 

We will now turn to the order of reptiles, which gives the most 
striking character to the zoology of these islands. The species are 

1 The progress of research has shown that some of these birds, which were then 
thought to be confined to the islands, occur on the American continent. The eminent 
ornithologist, Mr. Sclater, informs me that this is the case with the Strix punctatissima 
and Pyrocephalus nanus; and probably with the Otus Galapagoensis and Zenaida 
Galapagoensis: so that the number of endemic birds is reduced to twenty-three, or 
probably to twenty-one. Mr. Sclater thinks that one or two of these endemic forms 
should be ranked rather as varieties than species, which always seemed to me probable. 


not numerous, but the numbers of individuals of each species are 
extraordinarily great. There is one small lizard belonging to a 
South American genus, and two species (and probably more) of 
the Amblyrhynchus a genus confined to the Galapagos Islands. 
There is one snake which is numerous; it is identical, as I am in- 
formed by M. Bibron, with the Psammophis Temminckii from 
Chile. 2 Of sea-turtle I believe there are more than one species; and 
of tortoises there are, as we shall presently show, two or three species 
or races. Of toads and frogs there are none : I was surprised at this, 
considering how well suited for them the temperate and damp 
upper woods appeared to be. It recalled to my mind the remark 
made by Bory St. Vincent, 3 namely, that none of this family are 
found on any of the volcanic islands in the great oceans. As far as 
I can ascertain from various works, this seems to hold good through- 
out the Pacific, and even in the large islands of the Sandwich archi- 
pelago. Mauritius offers an apparent exception, where I saw the 
Rana Mascariensis in abundance: this frog is said now to inhabit 
the Seychelles, Madagascar, and Bourbon; but on the other hand, 
Du Bois, in his voyage in 1669, states that there were no reptiles in 
Bourbon except tortoises; and the Officier du Roi asserts that before 
1768 it had been attempted, without success, to introduce frogs 
into Mauritius I presume for the purpose of eating: hence it may 
be well doubted whether this frog is an aboriginal of these islands. 
The absence of the frog family in the oceanic islands is the more 
remarkable, when contrasted with the case of lizards, which swarm 
on most of the smallest islands. May this difference not be caused, 
by the greater facility with which the eggs of lizards, protected by 
calcareous shells, might be transported through salt-water, than 
could the slimy spawn of frogs ? 

1 will first describe the habits of the tortoise (Testudo nigra, 
formerly called Indica), which has been so frequently alluded to. 
These animals are found, I believe, on all the islands of the archi- 

2 This is stated by Dr. Giinther (Zoolog. Soc., Jan. 24th, 1859) to be a peculiar 
species, not known to inhabit any other country. 

3 Voyage aux Quatre lies cTAfrique. With respect to the Sandwich Islands, see 
Tyerman and Bennett's Journal, vol. i. p. 434. For Mauritius, see Voyage par un 
Officier, etc., part i. p. 170. There are no frogs in the Canary Islands (Webb et 
Berthelot, Hist. Nat. des lies Canaries). I saw none at St. Jago in the Cape de Verds. 
There are none at St. Helena. 


pelago; certainly on the greater number. They frequent in prefer- 
ence the high damp parts, but they likewise live in the lower and 
arid districts. I have already shown, from the numbers which have 
been caught in a single day, how very numerous they must be. 
Some grow to an immense size: Mr. Lawson, an Englishman, and 
vice-governor of the colony, told us that he had seen several so 
large, that it required six or eight men to lift them from the ground; 
and that some had afforded as much as two hundred pounds of 
meat. The old males are the largest, the females rarely growing 
to so great a size: the male can readily be distinguished from the 
female by the greater length of its tail. The tortoises which live on 
those islands where there is no water, or in the lower and arid parts 
of the others, feed chiefly on the succulent cactus. Those which fre- 
quent the higher and damp regions, eat the leaves of various trees, 
a kind of berry (called guayavita) which is acid and austere, and 
likewise a pale green filamentous lichen (Usnera plicata), that 
hangs from the boughs of the trees. 

The tortoise is very fond of water, drinking large quantities, and 
wallowing in the mud. The larger islands alone possess springs, 
and these are always situated towards the central parts, and at a 
considerable height. The tortoises, therefore, which frequent the 
lower districts, when thirsty, are obliged to travel from a long dis- 
tance. Hence broad and well-beaten paths branch off in every direc- 
tion from the wells down to the sea-coast; and the Spaniards by 
following them up, first discovered the watering-places. When I 
landed at Chatham Island, I could not imagine what animal 
travelled so methodically along well-chosen tracks. Near the springs 
it was a curious spectacle to behold many of these huge creatures, 
one set eagerly travelling onwards with outstretched necks, and 
another set returning, after having drunk their fill. When the tor- 
toise arrives at the spring, quite regardless of any spectator, he 
buries his head in the water above his eyes, and greedily swallows 
great mouthfuls, at the rate of about ten in a minute. The inhabit- 
ants say each animal stays three or four days in the neighbourhood 
of the water, and then returns to the lower country; but they dif- 
fered respecting the frequency of these visits. The animal probably 
regulates them according to the nature of the food on which it has 


lived. It is, however, certain, that tortoises can subsist even on 
these islands where there is no other water than what falls during 
a few rainy days in the year. 

I believe it is well ascertained, that the bladder of the frog acts 
as a reservoir for the moisture necessary to its existence: such seems 
to be the case with the tortoise. For some time after a visit to the 
springs, their urinary bladders are distended with fluid, which is 
said gradually to decrease in volume, and to become less pure. The 
inhabitants, when walking in the lower district, and overcome 
with thirst, often take advantage of this circumstance, and drink 
the contents of the bladder if full : in one I saw killed, the fluid was 
quite limpid, and had only a very slightly bitter taste. The inhabit- 
ants, however, always first drink the water in the pericardium, 
which is described as being best. 

The tortoises, when purposely moving towards any point, travel 
by night and day, and arrive at their journey's end much sooner 
than would be expected. The inhabitants, from observing marked 
individuals, consider that they travel a distance of about eight 
miles in two or three days. One large tortoise, which I watched, 
walked at the rate of sixty yards in ten minutes, that is 360 yards 
in the hour, or four miles a day, allowing a little time for it to 
eat on the road. During the breeding season, when the male and 
female are together, the male utters a hoarse roar or bellowing, 
which, it is said, can be heard at the distance of more than a hun- 
dred yards. The female never uses her voice, and the male only at 
these times; so that when the people hear this noise, they know 
that the two are together. They were at this time (October) laying 
their eggs. The female, where the soil is sandy, deposits them to- 
gether, and covers them up with sand; but where the ground is 
rocky she drops them indiscriminately in any hole: Mr. Bynoe 
found seven placed in a fissure. The egg is white and spherical; 
one which I measured was seven inches and three-eighths in cir- 
cumference, and therefore larger than a hen's egg. The young tor- 
toises, as soon as they are hatched, fall a prey in great numbers to 
the carrion-feeding buzzard. The old ones seem generally to die 
from accidents, as from falling down precipices: at least, several of 


the inhabitants told me, that they never found one dead without 
some evident cause. 

The inhabitants believe that these animals are absolutely deaf; 
certainly they do not overhear a person walking close behind them. 
I was always amused when overtaking one of these great monsters, 
as it was quietly pacing along, to see how suddenly, the instant I 
passed, it would draw in its head and legs, and uttering a deep hiss 
fall to the ground with a heavy sound, as if struck dead. I fre- 
quently got on their backs, and then giving a few raps on the hinder 
part of their shells, they would rise up and walk away; but I 
found it very difficult to keep my balance. The flesh of this animal 
is largely employed, both fresh and salted; and a beautifully clear 
oil is prepared from the fat. When a tortoise is caught, the man 
makes a slit in the skin near its tail, so as to see inside its body, 
whether the fat under the dorsal plate is thick. If it is not, the 
animal is liberated and it is said to recover soon from this strange 
operation. In order to secure the tortoise, it is not sufficient to turn 
them like turtle, for they are often able to get on their legs again. 

There can be little doubt that this tortoise is an aboriginal inhab- 
itant of the Galapagoes; for it is found on all, or nearly all, the 
islands, even on some of the smaller ones where there is no water; 
had it been an imported species, this would hardly have been the 
case in a group which has been so little frequented. Moreover, the 
old Bucaniers found this tortoise in greater numbers even than at 
present: Wood and Rogers also, in 1708, say that it is the opinion of 
the Spaniards, that it is found nowhere else in this quarter of the 
world. It is now widely distributed; but it may be questioned 
whether it is in any other place an aboriginal. The bones of a tor- 
toise at Mauritius, associated with those of the extinct Dodo, have 
generally been considered as belonging to this tortoise; if this had 
been so, undoubtedly it must have been there indigenous; but M. 
Bibron informs me that he believes that it was distinct, as the species 
now living there certainly is. 

The Amblyrhynchus, a remarkable genus of lizards, is confined 
to this archipelago; there are two species, resembling each other 
in general form, one being terrestrial and the other aquatic. This 


latter species (A. cristatus) was first characterized by Mr. Bell, who 
well foresaw, from its short, broad head, and strong claws of equal 
length, that its habits of life would turn out very peculiar, and 
different from those of its nearest ally, the Iguana. It is extremely 
common on all the islands throughout the group, and lives exclu- 
sively on the rocky sea-beaches, being never found, at least I never 
saw one, even ten yards in-shore. It is a hideous4ooking creature, 
of a dirty black colour, stupid, and sluggish in its movements. The 
usual length of a full-grown one is about a yard, but there are some 

Amblyrhynchus cristatus. a, Tooth of, natural size, and likewise magnified. 

even four feet long; a large one weighed twenty pounds: on the 
island of Albemarle they seem to grow to a greater size than else- 
where. Their tails are flattened sideways, and all four feet partially 
webbed. They are occasionally seen some hundred yards from the 
shore, swimming about; and Captain Collnett, in his Voyage says, 
"They go to sea in herds a-fishing, and sun themselves on the 
rocks; and may be called alligators in miniature." It must not, 
however, be supposed that they live on fish. When in the water 
this lizard swims with perfect ease and quickness, by a serpentine 
movement of its body and flattened tail the legs being motionless 
and closely collapsed on its sides. A seaman on board sank one, with 
a heavy weight attached to it, thinking thus to kill it directly; but 
when, an hour afterwards, he drew up the line, it was quite active. 
Their limbs and strong claws are admirably adapted for crawling 
over the rugged and fissured masses of lava, which everywhere form 
the coast. In such situations, a group of six or seven of these hideous 


reptiles may oftentimes be seen on the black rocks, a few feet above 
the surf, basking in the sun with outstretched legs. 

I opened the stomachs of several, and found them largely dis- 
tended with minced sea-weed (Ulvx), which grows in thin folia- 
ceous expansions of a bright green or a dull red colour. I do not 
recollect having observed this sea-weed in any quantity on the tidal 
rocks; and I have reason to believe it grows at the bottom of the 
sea, at some little distance from the coast. If such be the case, the 
object of these animals occasionally going out to sea is explained. 
The stomach contained nothing but the sea-weed. Mr. Baynoe, 
however, found a piece of crab in one; but this might have got in 
accidentally, in the same manner as I have seen a caterpillar, in the 
midst of some lichen, in the paunch of a tortoise. The intestines were 
large, as in other herbivorous animals. The nature of this lizard's 
food, as well as the structure of its tail and feet, and the fact of its 
having been seen voluntarily swimming out at sea, absolutely prove 
its aquatic habits; yet there is in this respect one strange anomaly, 
namely, that when frightened it will not enter the water. Hence it 
is easy to drive these lizards down to any little point overhanging 
the sea, where they will sooner allow a person to catch hold of their 
tails than jump into the water. They do not seem to have any no- 
tion of biting; but when much frightened they squirt a drop of 
fluid from each nostril. I threw one several times as far as I could, 
into a deep pool left by the retiring tide; but it invariably returned 
in a direct line to the spot where I stood. It swam near the bottom, 
with a very graceful and rapid movement, and occasionally aided 
itself over the uneven ground with its feet. As soon as it arrived 
near the edge, but still being under water, it -tried to conceal itself 
in the tufts of sea-weed, or it entered some crevice. As soon as it 
thought the danger was past, it crawled out on the dry rocks, and 
shuffled away as quickly as it could. I several times caught this same 
lizard, by driving it down to a point, and though possessed of such 
perfect powers of diving and swimming, nothing would induce it to 
enter the water; and as often as I threw it in, it returned in the 
manner above described. Perhaps this singular piece of apparent 
stupidity may be accounted for by the circumstance, that this reptile 
has no enemy whatever on shore, whereas at sea it must often fall a 


prey to the numerous sharks. Hence, probably, urged by a fixed 
and hereditary instinct that the shore is its place of safety, whatever 
the emergency may be, it there takes refuge. 

During our visit (in October), I saw extremely few small in- 
dividuals of this species, and none I should think under a year old. 
From this circumstance it seems probable that the breeding season 
had not then commenced. I asked several of the inhabitants if they 
knew where it laid its eggs: they said that they knew nothing of its 
propagation, although well acquainted with the eggs of the land 
kind a fact, considering how very common this lizard is, not a 
little extraordinary. 

We will now turn to the terrestrial species (A. Demarlii), with a 
round tail, and toes without webs. This lizard, instead of being 
found like the other on all the islands, is confined to the central part 
of the archipelago, namely to Albemarle, James, Barrington, and 
Indefatigable islands. To the southward, in Charles, Hood, and 
Chatham islands, and to the northward, in Towers, Bindloes, and 
Abingdon, I neither saw nor heard of any. It would appear as if 
it had been created in the centre of the archipelago, and thence had 
been dispersed only to a certain distance. Some of these lizards in- 
habit the high and damp parts of the islands, but they are much 
more numerous in the lower and sterile districts near the coast. I 
cannot give a more forcible proof of their numbers, than by stating 
that when we were left at James Island, we could not for some time 
find a spot free from their burrows on which to pitch our single 
tent. Like their brothers the sea-kind, they are ugly animals, of a 
yellowish orange beneath, and of a brownish red colour above: from 
their low facial angle they have a singularly stupid appearance. 
They are, perhaps, of a rather less size than the marine species; but 
several of them weighed between ten and fifteen pounds. In their 
movements they are lazy and half torpid. When not frightened, 
they slowly crawl along with their tails and bellies dragging on the 
ground. They often stop, and doze for a minute or two, with closed 
eyes and hind legs spread out on the parched soil. 

They inhabit burrows, which they sometimes make between 
fragments of lava, but more generally on level patches of the soft 
sandstone-like tuff. The holes do not appear to be very deep, and 


they enter the ground at a small angle; so that when walking over 
these lizard-warrens, the soil is constantly giving way, much to the 
annoyance of the tired walker. This animal, when making its bur- 
row, works alternately the opposite sides of its body. One front 
leg for a short time scratches up the soil, and throws it towards the 
hind foot, which is well placed so as to heave it beyond the mouth 
of the hole. That side of the body being tired, the other takes up 
the task, and so on alternately. I watched one for a long time, till 
half its body was buried; I then walked up and pulled it by the 
tail; at this it was greatly astonished, and soon shuffled up to see 
what was the matter; and then stared me in the face, as much as to 
say, "What made you pull my tail?" 

They feed by day, and do not wander far from their burrows; if 
frightened, they rush to them with a most awkward gait. Except 
when running down hill, they cannot move very fast, apparently 
from the lateral position of their legs. They are not at all timorous: 
when attentively watching any one, they curl their tails, and, rais- 
ing themselves on their front legs, nod their heads vertically, with a 
quick movement, and try to look very fierce; but in reality they are 
not at all so: if one just stamps on the ground, down go their tails, 
and off they shuffle as quickly as they can. I have frequently ob- 
served small fly-eating lizards, when watching anything, nod their 
heads in precisely the same manner; but I do not at all know for 
what purpose. If this Amblyrhynchus is held and plagued with a 
stick, it will bite it very severely; but I caught many by the tail, 
and they never tried to bite me. If two are placed on the ground 
and held together, they will fight, and bite each other till blood is 

The individuals, and they are the greater number, which inhabit 
the lower country, can scarcely taste a drop of water throughout 
the year; but they consume much of the succulent cactus, the 
branches of which are occasionally broken or? by the wind. I 
several times threw a piece to two or three of them when together; 
and it was amusing enough to see them trying to seize and carry 
it away in their mouths, like so many hungry dogs with a bone. 
They eat very deliberately, but do not chew their food. The little 
birds are aware how harmless these creatures are: I have seen one 


of the thick-billed finches picking at one end of a piece of cactus 
(which is much relished by all the animals of the lower region), 
whilst a lizard was eating at the other end; and afterwards the 
little bird with the utmost indifference hopped on the back of the 

I opened the stomachs of several, and found them full of vege- 
table fibres and leaves of different trees, especially of an acacia. In 
the upper region they live chiefly on the acid and astringent berries 
of the guayavita, under which trees I have seen these lizards and the 
huge tortoises feeding together. To obtain the acacia-leaves they 
crawl up the low stunted trees; and it is not uncommon <to see a 
pair quietly browsing, whilst seated on a branch several feet above 
the ground. These lizards, when cooked, yield a white meat, which 
is liked by those whose stomachs soar above all prejudices. 

Humboldt has remarked that in intertropical South America, all 
lizards which inhabit dry regions are esteemed delicacies for the 
table. The inhabitants state that those which inhabit the upper 
damp parts drink water, but that the others do not, like the tortoises, 
travel up for it from the lower sterile country. At the time of our 
visit, the females had within their bodies numerous, large, elon- 
gated eggs, which they lay in their burrows: the inhabitants seek 
them for food. 

These two species of Amblyrhynchus agree, as I have already 
stated, in their general structure, and in many of their habits. 
Neither have that rapid movement, so characteristic of the genera 
Lacerta and Iguana. They are both herbivorous, although the 
kind of vegetation on which they feed is so very different. Mr. 
Bell has given the name to the genus from the shortness of the 
snout: indeed, the form of the mouth may almost be compared to 
that of the tortoise: one is led to suppose that this is an adaptation 
to their herbivorous appetites. It is very interesting thus to find a 
well-characterized genus, having its marine and terrestrial species, 
belonging to so confined a portion of the world. The aquatic species 
is by far the most remarkable, because it is the only existing lizard 
which lives on marine vegetable productions. As I at first observed, 
these islands are not so remarkable for the number of the species of 
reptiles, as for trmt: of the individuals; when we remember the well- 


beaten paths made by the thousands of huge tortoises the many 
turtles the great warrens of the terrestrial Amblyrhynchus and 
the groups of the marine species basking on the coast-rocks of every 
island we must admit that there is no other quarter of the world 
where this Order replaces the herbivorous mammalia in so extraor- 
dinary a manner. The geologist on hearing this will probably 
refer back in his mind to the Secondary epochs, when lizards, some 
herbivorous, some carnivorous, and of dimensions comparable only 
with our existing whales, swarmed on the land and in the sea. It 
is, therefore, worthy of his observation, that this archipelago, instead 
of possessing a humid climate and rank vegetation, cannot be con- 
sidered otherwise than extremely arid, and, for an equatorial region, 
remarkably temperate. 

To finish with the zoology: the fifteen kinds of sea-fish which I 
procured here are all new species; they belong to twelve genera, 
all widely distributed, with the exception of Prionotus, of which the 
four previously known species live on the eastern side of America. 
Of land-shells I collected sixteen kinds (and two marked varieties), 
of which, with the exception of one Helix found at Tahiti, all are 
peculiar to this archipelago: a single fresh-water shell (Paludina) 
is common to Tahiti and Van Diemen's Land. Mr. Cuming, before 
our voyage, procured here ninety species of sea-shells, and this does 
not include several species not yet specifically examined, of Trochus, 
Turbo, Monodonta, and Nassa. He has been kind enough to give 
me the following interesting results: Of the ninety shells, no less 
than forty-seven are unknown elsewhere a wonderful fact, con- 
sidering how widely distributed sea-shells generally are. Of the 
forty-three shells found in other parts of the world, twenty-five 
inhabit the western coast of America, and of these eight are dis- 
tinguishable as varieties; the remaining eighteen (including one 
variety) were found by Mr. Cuming in the Low Archipelago, and 
some of them also at the Philippines. This fact of shells from islands 
in the central parts of the Pacific occurring here, deserves notice, 
for not one single sea-shell is known to be common to the islands of 
that ocean and to the west coast of America. The space of open sea 
running north and south of? the west coast, separates two quite dis- 
tinct conchological provinces; but at the Galapagos Archipelago 


we have a halting-place, where many new forms have been created, 
and whither these two great conchological provinces have each sent 
up several colonists. The American province has also sent here 
representative species; for there is a Galapageian species of Mono- 
ceros, a genus only found on the west coast of America; and there 
are Galapageian species of Fissurella and Cancellaria, genera com- 
mon on the west coast, but not found (as I am informed by Mr. 
Cuming) in the central islands of the Pacific. On the other hand, 
there are Galapageian species of Oniscia and Stylifer, genera com- 
mon to the West Indies and to the Chinese and Indian seas, but not 
found either on the west coast of America or in the central Pacific. 
I may here add, that after the comparison by Messrs. Cuming and 
Hinds of about 2000 shells from the eastern and western coasts of 
America, only one single shell was found in common, namely, the 
Purpura patula, which inhabits the West Indies, the coast of Pan- 
ama, and the Galapagos. We have, therefore, in this quarter of the 
world, three great conchological sea-provinces, quite distinct, though 
surprisingly near each other, being separated by long north and 
south spaces either of land or of open sea. 

I took great pains in collecting the insects, but excepting Tierra 
del Fuego, I never saw in this respect so poor a country. Even in 
the upper and damp region I procured very few, excepting some 
minute Diptera and Hymenoptera, mostly of common mundane 
forms. As before remarked, the insects, for a tropical region, are of 
very small size and dull colours. Of beetles I collected twenty-five 
species (excluding a Dermestes and Corynetes imported, wherever 
a ship touches) ; of these, two belong to the Harpalidx, two to the 
Hydrophilidae, nine to three families of the Heteromera, and the 
remaining twelve to as many different families. This circumstance 
of insects (and I may add plants), where few in number, belonging 
to many different families, is, I believe, very general. Mr. Water- 
house, who has published 4 an account of the insects of this archi- 
pelago, and to whom I am indebted for the above details, informs 
me that there are several new genera: and that of the genera not 
new, one or two are American, and the rest of mundane distribu- 
tion. With the exception of a wood-feeding Apate, and of one or 

4 Ann. and Mag. of Nat. Hist., vol. xvi. p. 19. 


probably two water-beetles from the American continent, all the 
species appear to be new. 

The botany of this group is fully as interesting as the zoology. 
Dr. J. Hooker will soon publish in the "Linnean Transactions" a 
full account of the Flora, and I am much indebted to him for the 
following details. Of flowering plants there are, as far as at present 
is known, 185 species, and 40 cryptogamic species, making alto- 
gether 225; of this number I was fortunate enough to bring home 
193. Of the flowering plants, 100 are new species, and are probably 
confined to this archipelago. Dr. Hooker conceives that, of the 
plants not so confined, at least 10 species found near the cultivated 
ground at Charles Island, have been imported. It is, I think, sur- 
prising that more American species have not been introduced natu- 
rally, considering that the distance is only between 500 and 600 
miles from the continent; and that (according to Collnet, p. 58) 
drift-wood, bamboos, canes, and the nuts of a palm, are often washed 
on 'the south-eastern shores. The proportion of 100 flowering plants 
out of 185 (or 175 excluding the imported weeds) being new, is 
sufficient, I conceive, to make the Galapagos Archipelago a dis- 
tinct botanical province; but this Flora is not nearly so peculiar as 
that of St. Helena, nor, as I am informed by Dr. Hooker, of Juan 
Fernandez. The peculiarity of the Galapageian Flora is best shown 
in certain families; thus there are 21 species of Composite, of 
which 20 are peculiar to this archipelago; these belong to twelve 
genera, and of these genera no less than ten are confined to the archi- 
pelago! Dr. Hooker informs me that the Flora has an undoubtedly 
Western American character; nor can he detect in it any affinity 
with that of the Pacific. If, therefore, we except the eighteen marine, 
the one fresh-water, and one land-shell, which have apparently come 
here as colonists from the central islands of the Pacific, and likewise 
the one distinct Pacific species of the Galapageian group of finches, 
we see that this archipelago, though standing in the Pacific Ocean, 
is zoologically part of America. 

If this character were owing merely to immigrants from America, 
there would be little remarkable in it; but we see that a vast majority 
of all the land animals, and that more than half of the flowering 
plants, are aboriginal productions. It was most striking to be sur- 


rounded by new birds, new reptiles, new shells, new insects, new 
plants, and yet by innumerable trifling details of structure, and even 
by the tones of voice and plumage of the birds, to have the temper- 
ate plains of Patagonia, or rather the hot dry deserts of Northern 
Chile, vividly brought before my eyes. Why, on these small points 
of land, which within a late geological period must have been cov- 
ered by the ocean, which are formed by basaltic lava, and therefore 
differ in geological character from the American continent, and 
which are placed under a peculiar climate, why were their aborig- 
inal inhabitants, associated, I may add, in different proportions both 
in kind and number from those on the continent, and therefore 
acting on each other in a different manner why were they created 
on American types of organization ? It is probable that the islands 
of the Cape de Verd group resemble, in all their physical condi- 
tions, far more closely the Galapagos Islands, than these latter phys- 
ically resemble the coast of America, yet the aboriginal inhabitants 
of the two groups are totally unlike; those of the Cape de Verd 
Islands bearing the impress of Africa, as the inhabitants of the 
Galapagos Archipelago are stamped with that of America. 

I have not as yet noticed by far the most remarkable feature in 
the natural history of this archipelago; it is, that the different islands 
to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set of beings. 
My attention was first called to this fact by the Vice-Governor, Mr. 
Lawson, declaring that the tortoises differed from the different 
islands, and that he could with certainty tell from which island 
any one was brought. I did not for some -time pay sufficient atten- 
tion to this statement, and I had already partially mingled together 
the collections from two of the islands. I never dreamed that 
islands, about 50 or 60 miles apart, and most of them in sight of 
each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite 
similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been 
differently tenanted; but we shall soon see that this is the case. It 
is the fate of most voyagers, no sooner to discover what is most in- 
teresting in any locality, than they are hurried from it; but I ought, 
perhaps, to be thankful that I obtained sufficient materials to estab- 
lish this most remarkable fact in the distribution of organic beings. 


The inhabitants, as I have said, state that they can distinguish 
the tortoises from the different islands; and that they differ not only 
in size, but in other characters. Captain Porter has described 5 those 
from Charles and from the nearest island to it, namely, Hood Island, 
as having their shells in front thick and turned up like a Spanish 
saddle, whilst the tortoises from James Island are rounder, blacker, 
and have a better taste when cooked. M. Bibron, moreover, informs 
me that he has seen what he considers two distinct species of tortoise 
from the Galapagos, but he does not know from which islands. 
The specimens that I brought from three islands were young ones: 
and probably owing to this cause neither Mr. Gray nor myself 
could find in them any specific differences. I have remarked that 
the marine Amblyrhynchus was larger at Albemarle Island than 
elsewhere; and M. Bibron informs me that he has seen two dis- 
tinct aquatic species of this genus; so that the different islands 
probably have their representative species or races of the Ambly- 
rhynchus, as well as of the tortoise. My attention was first thoroughly 
aroused, by comparing together the numerous specimens, shot by 
myself and several other parties on board, of the mocking-thrushes, 
when, to my astonishment, I discovered that all those from Charles 
Island belonged to one species (Mimus trifasciatus) ; all from Albe- 
marle Island to M. parvulus; and all from James and Chatham 
Islands (between which two other islands are situated, as connect- 
ing links) belonged to M. melanotis. These two latter species are 
closely allied, and would by some ornithologists be considered as 
only well-marked races or varieties; but the Mimus trifasciatus is 
very distinct. Unfortunately most of the specimens of the finch 
tribe were mingled together; but I have strong reasons to suspect 
that some of the species of the sub-group Geospiza are confined 
to separate islands. If the different islands have their representa- 
tives of Geospiza, it may help to explain the singularly large num- 
ber of the species of this sub-group in this one small archipelago, 
and as a probable consequence of their numbers, the perfectly grad- 
uated series in the size of their beaks. Two species of the sub-group 
Cactornis, and two of the Camarhynchus, were procured in the 
archipelago; and of the numerous specimens of these two sub- 
5 Voyage in the U. S. ship Essex, vol. i. p. 215. 


groups shot by four collectors at James Island, all were found to 
belong to one species of each; whereas the numerous specimens 
shot either on Chatham or Charles Island (for the two sets were 
mingled together) all belonged to the two other species: hence we 
may feel almost sure that these islands possess their respective spe- 
cies of these two sub-groups. In land-shells this law of distribution 
does not appear to hold good. In my very small collection of in- 
sects, Mr. Waterhouse remarks, that of those which were ticketed 
with their locality, not one was common to any two of the islands. 
If we now turn to the Flora, we shall find the aboriginal plants 
of the different islands wonderfully different. I give all the follow- 
ing results on the high authority of my friend Dr. J. Hooker. I 
may premise that I indiscriminately collected everything in flower 
on the different islands, and fortunately kept my collections sepa- 
rate. Too much confidence, however, must not be placed in the 
proportional results, as the small collections brought home by some 
other naturalists, though in some respects confirming the results, 
plainly show that much remains to be done in the botany of this 
group: the Leguminosae, moreover, has as yet been only approxi- 
mately worked out: 


No. of 

No. of 
found in 
other parts 
of the 

No. of 
to the 

to the 

No. of Species 
confined to the 
but found on 
more than the 
one Island. 

James Island 






Albemarle Island 






Chatham Island 






Charles Island 






(or 29. if the 

probably im- 

ported plants 
be subtracted) 

Hence we have the truly wonderful fact, that in James Island, of 
the thirty-eight Galapageian plants, or those found in no other part 
of the world, thirty are exclusively confined to this one island; and 
in Albemarle Island, of the twenty-six aboriginal Galapageian 
plants, twenty-two are confined to this one island, that is, only four 
are at present known to grow in the other islands of the archipelago; 


and so on, as shown in the above table, with the plants from Chat- 
ham and Charles Islands. This fact will, perhaps, be rendered even 
more striking, by giving a few illustrations : thus, Scalesia, a re- 
markable arborescent genus of the Composite, is confined to the 
archipelago: it has six species: one from Chatham, one from Albe- 
marle, one from Charles Island, two from James Island, and the 
sixth from one of the 'three latter islands, but it is not known from 
which: not one of these six species grows on any two islands. 
Again, Euphorbia, a mundane or widely distributed genus, has 
here eight species, of which seven are confined to the archipelago, 
and not one found on any two islands: Acalypha and Borreria, 
both mundane genera, have respectively six and seven species, none 
of which have the same species on two islands, with the exception 
of one Borreria, which does occur on two islands. The species of the 
Composite are particularly local; and Dr. Hooker has furnished me 
with several other most striking illustrations of the difference of 
the species on the different islands. He remarks that this law of 
distribution holds good both with those genera confined to the 
archipelago, and those distributed in other quarters of the world : in 
like manner we have seen that the different islands have their 
proper species of the mundane genus of tortoise, and of the widely 
distributed American genus of the mocking-thrush, as well as of 
two of the Galapageian sub-groups of finches, and almost certainly 
of the Galapageian genus Amblyrhynchus. 

The distribution of the tenants of this archipelago would not be 
nearly so wonderful, if, for instance, one island had a mocking- 
thrush, and a second island some other quite distinct genus; if 
one island had its genus of lizard, and a second island another dis- 
tinct genus, or none whatever; or if the different islands were in- 
habited, not by representative species of the same genera of plants, 
but by totally different genera, as does to a certain extent hold good : 
for, to give one instance, a large berry-bearing tree at James Island 
has no representative species in Charles Island. But it is the cir- 
cumstance, that several of the islands possess their own species of 
the tortoise, mocking-thrush, finches, and numerous plants, these 
species having the same general habits, occupying analogous situa- 
tions, and obviously filling the same place in the natural economy of 


this archipelago, that strikes me with wonder. It may be suspected 
that some of these representative species, at least in the case of the 
tortoise and of some of the birds, may hereafter prove to be only 
well-marked races; but this would be of equally great interest to the 
philosophical naturalist. I have said that most of the islands are in 
sight of each other: I may specify that Charles Island is fifty miles 
from the nearest part of Chatham Island, and thirty-three miles 
from the nearest part of Albemarle Island. Chatham Island is sixty 
miles from the nearest part of James Island, but there are two inter- 
mediate islands between them which were not visited by me. James 
Island is only ten miles from the nearest part of Albemarle Island, 
but the two points where the collections were made are thirty-two 
miles apart. I must repeat, that neither the nature of the soil, nor 
height of the land, nor the climate, nor the general character of the 
associated beings, and therefore their action one on another, can 
differ much in the different islands. If there be any sensible differ- 
ence in their climates, it must be between the Windward group 
(namely, Charles and Chatham Islands), and that to leeward; but 
there seems to be no corresponding difference in the productions of 
these two halves of the archipelago. 

The only light which I can throw on this remarkable difference 
in the inhabitants of the different islands, is, that very strong cur- 
rents of the sea running in a westerly and W.N.W. direction must 
separate, as far as transportal by the sea is concerned, the southern 
islands from the northern ones; and between these northern islands 
a strong N.W. current was observed, which must effectually sepa- 
rate James and Albemarle Islands. As the archipelago is free to a 
most remarkable degree from gales of wind, neither the birds, in- 
sects, nor lighter seeds, would be blown from island to island. And 
lastly, the profound depth of the ocean between the islands, and 
their apparently recent (in a geological sense) volcanic origin, ren- 
der it highly unlikely that they were ever united; and this, prob- 
ably, is a far more important consideration than any other, with 
respect to the geographical distribution of their inhabitants. Re- 
viewing the facts here given, one is astonished at the amount of 
creative force, if such an expression may be used, displayed on these 
small, barren, and rocky islands; and still more so, at its diverse yet 


analogous action on points so near each other. I have said that the 
Galapagos Archipelago might be called a satellite attached to Amer- 
ica, but it should rather be called a group of satellites, physically 
similar, organically distinct, yet intimately related to each other, 
and all related in a marked, though much lesser degree, to the great 
American continent. 

I will conclude my description of the natural history of these 
islands, by giving an account of the extreme tameness of the birds. 
This disposition is common to all the terrestrial species; namely, 
to the mocking-thrushes, the finches, wrens, tyrant-flycatchers, the 
dove, and carrion-buzzard. All of them are often approached suffi- 
ciently near to be killed with a switch, and sometimes, as I myself 
tried, with a cap or hat. A gun is here almost superfluous; for with 
the muzzle I pushed a hawk off the branch of a tree. One day, 
whilst lying down, a mocking-thrush alighted on the edge of a 
pitcher, made of the shell of a tortoise, which I held in my hand, 
and began very quietly to sip the water; it allowed me to lift it from 
the ground whilst seated on the vessel: I often tried, and very nearly 
succeeded, in catching these birds by their legs. Formerly the birds 
appear to have been even tamer than at present. Cowley (in the 
year 1684) says that the "Turtledoves were so tame, that they would 
often alight on our hats and arms, so as that we could take them 
alive; they not fearing man, until such time as some of our com- 
pany did fire at them, whereby they were rendered more shy." 
Dampier also, in the same year, says that a man in a morning's walk 
might kill six or seven dozen of these doves. At present, although 
certainly very tame, they do not alight on people's arms, nor do they 
suffer themselves to be killed in such large numbers. It is surpris- 
ing that they have not become wilder; for these islands during the 
last hundred and fifty years have been frequently visited by buca- 
niers and whalers; and the sailors, wandering through the wood in 
search of tortoises, always take cruel delight in knocking down the 

little birds. 

These birds, although now still more persecuted, do not readily 
become wild. In Charles Island, which had then been colonized 
about six years, I saw a boy sitting by a well with a switch in his 
hand, with which he killed the doves and finches as they came to 


drink. He had already procured a little heap of them for his din- 
ner; and he said that he had constantly been in the habit of waiting 
by this well for the same purpose. It would appear that the birds 
of this archipelago, not having as yet learnt that man is a more dan- 
gerous animal than the tortoise or the Amblyrhynchus, disregard 
him, in the same manner as in England shy birds, such as mag- 
pies, disregard the cows and horses grazing in our fields. 

The Falkland Islands offer a second instance of birds with a 
similar disposition. The extraordinary tameness of the little Ope- 
tiorhynchus has been remarked by Pernety, Lesson, and other voy- 
agers. It is not, however, peculiar to that bird : the Polyborus, snipe, 
upland and lowland goose, thrush, bunting, and even some true 
hawks, are all more or less tame. As the birds are so tame there, 
where foxes, hawks, and owls occur, we may infer that the absence 
of all rapacious animals at the Galapagos, is not the cause of their 
tameness here. The upland geese at the Falklands show, by the 
precaution they take in building on the islets, that they are aware 
of their danger from the foxes; but they are not by this rendered 
wild towards man. This tameness of the birds, especially of the 
waterfowl, is strongly contrasted with the habits of the same species 
in Tierra del Fuego, where for ages past they have been persecuted 
by the wild inhabitants. In the Falklands, the sportsman may 
sometimes kill more of the upland geese in one day than he can 
carry home; whereas in Tierra del Fuego it is nearly as difficult to 
kill one, as it is in England to shoot the common wild goose. 

In the time of Pernety (1763), all the birds there appear to have 
been much tamer than at present; he states that the Opetiorhynchus 
would almost perch on his finger; and that with a wand he killed 
ten in half an hour. At that period the birds must have been about 
as tame as they now are at the Galapagos. They appear to have 
learnt caution more slowly at these latter islands than at the Falk- 
lands, where they have had proportionate means of experience; for 
besides frequent visits from vessels, those islands have been at 
intervals colonized during the entire period. Even formerly, when 
all the birds were so tame, it was impossible by Pernety's account 
to kill the black-necked swan a bird of passage, which probably 
brought with it the wisdom learnt in foreign countries. 


I may add that, according to Du Bois, all the birds at Bourbon in 
1571-72, with the exception of the flamingoes and geese, were so 
extremely tame, that they could be caught by the hand, or killed 
in any number with a stick. Again, at Tristan d'Acunha in the 
Atlantic, Carmichael 6 states that the only two land-birds, a thrush 
and a bunting, were "so tame as to suffer themselves to be caught 
with a hand-net." From these several facts we may, I think, con- 
clude, first, that the wildness of birds with regard to man, is a par- 
ticular instinct directed against him, and not dependent upon any 
general degree of caution arising from other sources of danger; 
secondly, that it is not acquired by individual birds in a short time, 
even when much persecuted; but that in the course of successive 
generations it becomes hereditary. With domesticated animals 
we are accustomed to see new mental habits or instincts acquired or 
rendered hereditary; but with animals in a state of nature, it must 
always be most difficult to discover instances of acquired hereditary 
knowledge. In regard to the wildness of birds towards man, there 
is no way of accounting for it, except as an inherited habit: com- 
paratively few young birds, in any one year, have been injured by 
man in England, yet almost all, even nestlings, are afraid of him; 
many individuals, on the other hand, both at the Galapagos and 
at the Falklands, have been pursued and injured by man, yet have 
not learned a salutary dread of him. We may infer from these facts, 
what havoc the introduction of any new beast of prey must cause 
in a country, before the instincts of the indigenous inhabitants have 
become adapted to the stranger's craft or power. 

6 Linn. Trans., vol. xii. p. 496. The most anomalous fact on this subject which I 
have met with is the wildness of the small birds in the Arctic parts of North America 
(as described by Richardson, Fauna Bor., vol. ii. p. 332), where they are said never 
to be persecuted. This case is the more strange, because it is asserted that some of the 
same species in their winter-quarters in the United States are tame. There is much, 
as Dr. Richardson well remarks, utterly inexplicable connected with the different 
degrees of shyness and care with which birds conceal their nests. How strange it 
is that the English wood -pigeon, generally so wild a bird, should very frequently rear 
its young in shrubberies close to houses! 


Pass through the Low Archipelago Tahiti Aspect Vegetation on the 
Mountains View of Eimeo Excursion into the Interior Profound 
Ravines Succession of Waterfalls Number of wild useful Plants 
Temperance of the Inhabitants Their moral state Parliament con- 
vened New Zealand Bay of Islands Hippahs Excursion to Wai- 
mate Missionary Establishment English Weeds now run wild 
Waiomio Funeral of a New Zealand Woman Sail for Australia. 

f\CTOBER 20th The survey of the Galapagos Archi- 
f i pelago being concluded, we steered towards Tahiti and 
\^J commenced our long passage of 3200 miles. In the course 
of a few days we sailed out of the gloomy and clouded ocean-district 
which extends during the winter far from the coast of South 
America. We then enjoyed bright and clear weather, while run- 
ning pleasantly along at the rate of 150 or 160 miles a day before 
the steady trade-wind. The temperature in this more central part 
of the Pacific is higher than near the American shore. The ther- 
mometer in the poop cabin, by night and day, ranged between 80 
and 83, which feels very pleasant; but with one degree or two 
higher, the heat becomes oppressive. We passed through the Low 
or Dangerous Archipelago, and saw several of those most curious 
rings of coral land, just rising above the water's edge, which have 
been called Lagoon Islands. A long and brilliantly white beach is 
capped by a margin of green vegetation; and the strip, looking 
either way, rapidly narrows away in the distance, and sinks beneath 
the horizon. From the mast-head a wide expanse of smooth water 
can be seen within the ring. These low hollow coral islands bear 
no proportion to the vast ocean out of which they abruptly rise; and 
it seems wonderful, that such weak invaders are not overwhelmed, 
by the all-powerful and never-tiring waves of that great sea, mis- 
called the Pacific. 



November i$th.At daylight, Tahiti, an island which must for 
ever remain classical to the voyager in the South Sea, was in view. 
At a distance the appearance was not attractive. The luxuriant 
vegetation of the lower part could not yet be seen, and as the clouds 
rolled past, the wildest and most precipitous peaks showed them- 
selves towards the centre of the island. As soon as we anchored in 
Matavai Bay, we were surrounded by canoes. This was our Sun- 
day, but the Monday of Tahiti: if the case had been reversed, we 
should not have received a single visit; for the injunction not to 
launch a canoe on the Sabbath is rigidly obeyed. After dinner, we 
landed to enjoy all the delights produced by the first impressions of 
a new country, and that country the charming Tahiti. A crowd of 
men, women, and children, was collected on the memorable Point 
Venus, ready to receive us with laughing, merry faces. They mar- 
shalled us towards the house of Mr. Wilson, the missionary of the 
district, who met us on the road, and gave us a very friendly recep- 
tion. After sitting a very short time in his house, we separated to 
walk about, but returned there in the evening. 

The land capable of cultivation, is scarcely in any part more than 
a fringe of low alluvial soil, accumulated round the base of the 
mountains, and protected from the waves of the sea by a coral reef, 
which encircles the entire line of coast. Within the reef there is an 
expanse of smooth water, like that of a lake, where the canoes of 
the natives can ply with safety and where ships anchor. The low 
land which comes down to the beach of coral-sand, is covered by 
the most beautiful productions of the intertropical regions. In the 
midst of bananas, orange, cocoa-nut, and bread-fruit trees, spots are 
cleared where yams, sweet potatoes, and sugar-cane, and pine-apples 
are cultivated. Even the brush-wood is an imported fruit-tree, 
namely, the guava, which from its abundance has become as nox- 
ious as a weed. In Brazil I have often admired the varied beauty of 
the bananas, palms, and orange-trees contrasted together; and here 
we also have the bread-fruit, conspicuous from its large, glossy, and 
deeply digitated leaf. It is admirable to behold groves of a tree, 
sending forth its branches with the vigour of an English oak, loaded 
with large and most nutritious fruit. However seldom the useful- 
ness of an object can account for the pleasure of beholding it, in the 


case of these beautiful woods, the knowledge of their high produc- 
tiveness no doubt enters largely into the feeling of admiration. The 
little winding paths, cool from the surrounding shade, led to the 
scattered houses; the owners of which everywhere gave us a cheer- 
ful and most hospitable reception. 

I was pleased with nothing so much as with the inhabitants. 
There is a mildness in the expression of their countenances which 
at once banishes the idea of a savage; and an intelligence which 
shows that they are advancing in civilization. The common people, 
when working, keep the upper part of their bodies quite naked; 
and it is then that the Tahitians are seen to advantage. They are 
very tall, broad-shouldered, athletic, and well-proportioned. It has 
been remarked, that it requires little habit to make a dark skin more 
pleasing and natural to the eye of an European than his own colour. 
A white man bathing by the side of a Tahitian, was like a plant 
bleached by the gardener's art compared with a fine dark green one 
growing vigorously in the open fields. Most of the men are tattooed, 
and the ornaments follow the curvature of the body so gracefully, 
that they have a very elegant effect. One common pattern, varying 
in its details, is somewhat like the crown of a palm-tree. It springs 
from the central line of the back, and gracefully curls round both 
sides. The simile may be a fanciful one, but I thought the body of 
a man thus ornamented was like the trunk of a noble tree embraced 
by a delicate creeper. 

Many of the elder people had their feet covered with small figures, 
so placed as to resemble a sock. This fashion, however, is partly 
gone by, and has been succeeded by others. Here, although fashion 
is far from immutable, every one must abide by that prevailing in 
his youth. An old man has thus his age for ever stamped on his 
body, and he cannot assume the airs of a young dandy. The women 
are tattooed in the same manner as the men, and very commonly on 
their fingers. One unbecoming fashion is now almost universal: 
namely, shaving the hair from the upper part of the head, in a cir- 
cular form, so as to leave only an outer ring. The missionaries have 
tried to persuade the people to change this habit; but it is the fashion, 
and that is a sufficient answer at Tahiti, as well as at Paris. I was 
much disappointed in the personal appearance of the women: they 


are far inferior in every respect to the men. The custom of wear- 
ing a white or scarlet flower in the back of the head, or through a 
small hole in each ear, is pretty. A crown of woven cocoa-nut leaves 
is also worn as a shade for the eyes. The women appear to be in 
greater want of some becoming costume even than the men. 

Nearly all the natives understand a little English that is, they 
know the names of common things; and by the aid of this, to- 
gether with signs, a lame sort of conversation could be carried on. 
In returning in the evening to the boat, we stopped to witness a 
very pretty scene. Numbers of children were playing on the beach, 
and had lighted bonfires which illumined the placid sea and sur- 
rounding trees; others, in circles, were singing Tahitian verses. 
We seated ourselves on the sand, and joined their party. The songs 
were impromptu, and I believe related to our arrival: one little girl 
sang a line, which the rest took up in parts, forming a very pretty 
chorus. The whole scene made us unequivocally aware that we 
were seated on the shores of an island in the far-famed South Sea. 

77^/2. This day is reckoned in the log-book as Tuesday the i7th, 
instead of Monday the i6th, owing to our, so far, successful chase 
of the sun. Before breakfast the ship was hemmed in by a flotilla 
of canoes; and when the natives were allowed to come on board, I 
suppose there could not have been less than two hundred. It was 
the opinion of every one that it would have been difficult to have 
picked out an equal number from any other nation, who would have 
given so little trouble. Everybody brought something for sale : shells 
were the main articles of trade. The Tahitians now fully understand 
the value of money, and prefer it to old clothes or other articles. The 
various coins, however, of English and Spanish denomination puz- 
zle them, and they never seemed to think the small silver quite 
secure until changed into dollars. Some of the chiefs have accu- 
mulated considerable sums of money. One chief, not long since, of- 
fered 800 dollars (about i6o/. sterling) for a small vessel; and fre- 
quently they purchase whale-boats and horses at the rate of from 
50 to 100 dollars. 

After breakfast I went on shore, and ascended the nearest slope to 
a height of between two and three thousand feet. The outer moun- 
tains are smooth and conical, but steep; and the old volcanic rocks, 


of which they are formed, have been cut through by many pro- 
found ravines, diverging from the central broken parts of the island 
to the coast. Having crossed the narrow low girt of inhabited and 
fertile land, I followed a smooth steep ridge between two of the 
deep ravines. The vegetation was singular, consisting almost ex- 
clusively of small dwarf ferns, mingled higher up, with coarse 
grass; it was not very dissimilar from that on some of the Welsh 
hills, and this so close above the orchard of tropical plants on the 
coast was very surprising. At the highest point, which I reached, 
trees again appeared. Of the three zones of comparative luxuriance, 
the lower one owes its moisture, and therefore fertility, to its flat- 
ness; for, being scarcely raised above the level of the sea, the water 
from the higher land drains away slowly. The intermediate zone 
does not, like the upper one, reach into a damp and cloudy atmos- 
phere, and therefore remains sterile. The woods in the upper zone 
are very pretty, tree-ferns replacing the cocoa-nuts on the coast. It 
must not, however, be supposed that these woods at all equal in 
splendour the forests of Brazil. The vast numbers of productions, 
which characterize a continent, cannot be expected to occur in an 

From the highest point which I attained, there was a good view 
of the distant island of Eimeo, dependent on the same sovereign 
with Tahiti. On the lofty and broken pinnacles, white massive 
clouds were piled up, which formed an island in -the blue sky, as 
Eimeo itself did in the blue ocean. The island, with the exception 
of one small gateway, is completely encircled by a reef. At this dis- 
tance, a narrow but well-defined brilliantly white line was alone vis- 
ible, where the waves first encountered the wall of coral. The moun- 
tains rose abruptly out of the glassy expanse of the lagoon, included 
within this narrow white line, outside which the heaving waters of 
the ocean were dark-coloured. The view was striking: it may aptly 
be compared to a framed engraving, where the frame represents the 
breakers, the marginal paper the smooth lagoon, and the drawing 
the island itself. When in the evening I descended from the moun- 
tain, a man, whom I had pleased with a trifling gift, met me, bring- 
ing with him hot roasted bananas, a pine-apple, and cocoa-nuts. 
After walking under a burning sun, I do not know anything more 


delicious than the milk of a young cocoa-nut. Pine-apples are here 
so abundant that the people eat them in the same wasteful manner 
as we might turnips. They are of an excellent flavor perhaps even 
better than those cultivated in England; and this I believe is the 
highest compliment which can be paid to any fruit. Before going 
on board, Mr. Wilson interpreted for me to the Tahitian who had 
paid me so adroit an attention, that I wanted him and another man 
to accompany me on a short excursion into the mountains. 

1 8th. In the morning I came on shore early, bringing with me 
some provisions in a bag, and two blankets for myself and servant. 
These were lashed to each end of a long pole, which was alternately 
carried by my Tahitian companions on their shoulders. These 
men are accustomed thus to carry, for a whole day, as much as 
fifty pounds at each end of their poles. I told my guides to provide 
themselves with food and clothing; but they said that there was 
plenty of food in the mountains, and for clothing, that their skins 
were sufficient. Our line of march was the valley of Tia-auru, down 
which a river flows into the sea by Point Venus. This is one of the 
principal streams in the island, and its source lies at the base of the 
loftiest central pinnacles, which rise to a height of about 7000 feet. 
The whole island is so mountainous that the only way to penetrate 
into the interior is to follow up the valleys. Our road, at first, lay 
through woods which bordered each side of the river; and the 
glimpses of the lofty central peaks, seen as through an avenue, 
with here and there a waving cocoa-nut tree on one side, were ex- 
tremely picturesque. The valley soon began to narrow, and the 
sides to grow lofty and more precipitous. After having walked be- 
tween three and four hours, we found the width of the ravine 
scarcely exceeded that of the bed of the stream. On each hand the 
walls were nearly vertical; yet from the soft nature of the volcanic 
strata, trees and a rank vegetation sprung from every projecting 
ledge. These precipices must have been some thousand feet high; 
and the whole formed a mountain gorge far more magnificent 
than anything which I had ever before beheld. Until the midday 
sun stood vertically over the ravine, the air felt cool and damp, but 
now it became very sultry. Shaded by a ledge of rock, beneath a 
facade of columnar lava, we ate our dinner. My guides had already 


procured a dish of small fish and fresh-water prawns. They carried 
with them a small net stretched on a hoop; and where the water 
was deep and in eddies, they dived, and like otters, with their eyes 
open followed the fish into holes and corners, and thus caught them. 

The Tahitians have the dexterity of amphibious animals in the 
water. An anecdote mentioned by Ellis shows how much they feel 
at home in this element. When a horse was landing for Pomarre in 
1817, the slings broke, and it fell into the water; immediately the 
natives jumped overboard, and by their cries and vain efforts at 
assistance almost drowned it. As soon, however, as it reached the 
shore, the whole population took to flight, and tried to hide them- 
selves from the man-carrying pig, as they christened the horse. 

A little higher up, the river divided itself into three little streams. 
The two northern ones were impracticable, owing to a succession 
of waterfalls which descended from the jagged summit of the 
highest mountain; the other to all appearance was equally inacces- 
sible, but we managed to ascend it by a most extraordinary road. 
The sides of the valley were here nearly precipitous; but, as fre- 
quently happens with stratified rocks, small ledges projected, which 
were thickly covered by wild bananas, lilaceous plants, and other 
luxuriant productions of the tropics. The Tahitians, by climbing 
amongst these ledges, searching for fruit, had discovered a track by 
which the whole precipice could be scaled. The first ascent from the 
valley was very dangerous; for it was necessary to pass a steeply 
inclined face of naked rock, by the aid of ropes which we brought 
with us. How any person discovered that this formidable spot was 
the only point where the side of the mountain was practicable, I 
cannot imagine. We then cautiously walked along one of the ledges 
till we came to one of the three streams. This ledge formed a flat 
spot, above which a beautiful cascade, some hundred feet in height, 
poured down its waters, and beneath, another high cascade fell into 
the main stream in the valley below. From this cool and shady recess 
we made a circuit to avoid the overhanging waterfall. As before, 
we followed little projecting ledges, the danger being partly con- 
cealed by the thickness of the vegetation. In passing from one of 
the ledges to another, there was a vertical wall of rock. One of the 
Tahitians, a fine active man, placed the trunk of a tree against this, 


climbed up it, and then by the aid of crevices reached the summit. 
He fixed the ropes to a projecting point, and lowered them for our 
dog and luggage, and then we clambered up ourselves. Beneath 
the ledge on which the dead tree was placed, the precipice must 
have been five or six hundred feet deep; and if the abyss had not 
been partly concealed by the overhanging ferns and lilies my head 
would have turned giddy, and nothing should have induced me to 
have attempted it. We continued to ascend, sometimes along ledges, 
and sometimes along knife-edged ridges, having on each hand pro- 
found ravines. In the Cordillera I :have seen mountains on a far 
grander scale, but for abruptness, nothing at all comparable with 
this. In the evening we reached a flat little spot on the banks of the 
same stream, which we had continued to follow, and which descends 
in a chain of waterfalls: here we bivouacked for the night. On each 
side of the ravine there were great beds of the mountain-banana, 
covered with ripe fruit. Many of these plants were from twenty to 
twenty-five feet high, and from three to four in circumference. By 
the aid of strips of bark for rope, the stems of bamboos for rafters, 
and the large leaf of the banana for a thatch, the Tahitians in a few 
minutes built us an excellent house; and with withered leaves made 
a soft bed. 

They then proceeded to make a fire, and cook our evening meal. 
A light was procured, by rubbing a blunt pointed stick in a groove 
made in another, as if with intention of deepening it, until by the 
friction the dust became ignited. A peculiarly white and very light 
wood (the Hibiscus tiliaceus) is alone used for this purpose: it is the 
same which serves for poles to carry any burden, and for the floating 
out-riggers to their canoes. The fire was produced in a few seconds: 
but to a person who does not understand the art, it requires, as I 
found, the greatest exertion; but at last, to my great pride, I suc- 
ceeded in igniting the dust. The Gaucho in the Pampas uses a 
different method: taking an elastic stick about eighteen inches long, 
he presses one end on his breast, and the other pointed end into a 
hole in a piece of wood, and then rapidly turns the curved part, like 
a carpenter's centre-bit. The Tahitians having made a small fire 
of sticks, placed a score of stones, of about the size of cricket-balls, on 
the burning wood. In about ten minutes the sticks were consumed, 


and the stones hot. They had previously folded up in small parcels 
of leaves, pieces of beef, fish, ripe and unripe bananas, and the tops 
of the wild arum. These green parcels were laid in a layer between 
two layers of the hot stones, and the whole then covered up with 
earth, so that no smoke or steam could escape. In about a quarter 
of an hour, the whole was most deliciously cooked. The choice green 
parcels were now laid on a cloth of banana leaves, and with a cocoa- 
nut shell we drank the cool water of the running stream; and thus 
we enjoyed our rustic meal. 

I could not look on the surrounding plants without admiration. 
On every side were forests of banana; the fruit of which, though 
serving for food in various ways, lay in heaps decaying on the ground. 
In front of us there was an extensive brake of wild sugar-cane; and 
the stream was shaded by the dark green knotted stem of the Ava, 
so famous in former days for its powerful intoxicating effects. I 
chewed a piece, and found that it had an acrid and unpleasant taste, 
which would have induced any one at once to have pronounced it 
poisonous. Thanks to the missionaries, this plant now thrives only 
in these deep ravines, innocuous to every one. Close by I saw the 
wild arum, the roots of which, when well baked, are good to eat, 
and the young leaves better than spinach. There was the wild yam, 
and a liliaceous plant called Ti, which grows in abundance, and has 
a soft brown root, in shape and size like a huge log of wood: this 
served us for dessert, for it is as sweet as treacle, and with a pleasant 
taste. There were, moreover, several other wild fruits, and useful 
vegetables. The little stream, besides its cool water, produced eels, 
and cray-fish. I did indeed admire this scene, when I compared it 
with an uncultivated one in the temperate zones. I felt the force of 
the remark, that man, at least savage man, with his reasoning powers 
only partly developed, is the child of the tropics. 

As the evening drew to a close, I strolled beneath the gloomy 
shade of the bananas up the course of the stream. My walk was soon 
brought to a close, by coming to a waterfall between two and three 
hundred feet high; and again above this there was another. I men- 
tion all these waterfalls in this one brook, to give a general idea of 
the inclination of the land. In the little recess where the water fell, 
it did not appear that a breath of wind had ever blown. The thin 


edges of the great leaves of the banana, damp with spray, were 
unbroken, instead of being, as is so generally the case, split into a 
thousand shreds. From our position, almost suspended on the moun- 
tain side, there were glimpses into the depths of the neighbouring 
valleys; and the lofty points of the central mountains, towering up 
within sixty degrees of the zenith, hid half the evening sky. Thus 
seated, it was a sublime spectacle to watch the shades of night gradu- 
ally obscuring the last and highest pinnacles. 

Before we laid ourselves down to sleep, the elder Tahitian fell on 
his knees, and with closed eyes repeated a long prayer in his native 
tongue. He prayed as a Christian should do, with fitting reverence, 
and without the fear of ridicule or any ostentation of piety. At our 
meals neither of the men would taste food, without saying before- 
hand a short grace. Those travellers who think that a Tahitian prays 
only when the eyes of the missionary are fixed on him, should have 
slept with us that night on the mountain-side. Before morning it 
rained very heavily; but the good thatch of banana-leaves kept us dry. 

November iqth At daylight my friends, after their morning 
prayer, prepared an excellent breakfast in the same manner as in the 
evening. They themselves certainly partook of it largely; indeed I 
never saw any men eat near so much. I suppose such enormously 
capacious stomachs must be the effect of a large part of their diet 
consisting of fruit and vegetables, which contain, in a given bulk, 
a comparatively small portion of nutriment. Unwittingly, I was the 
means of my companions breaking, as I afterwards learned, one of 
their own laws, and resolutions: I took with me a flask of spirits, 
which they could not refuse to partake of; but as often as they drank 
a little, they put their fingers before their mouths, and uttered the 
word "Missionary." About two years ago, although the use of the 
ava was prevented, drunkenness from the introduction of spirits 
became very prevalent. The missionaries prevailed on a few good 
men, who saw that their country was rapidly going to ruin, to join 
with them in a Temperance Society. From good sense or shame, all 
the chiefs and the queen were at last persuaded to join. Immedi- 
ately a law was passed, that no spirits should be allowed to be intro- 
duced into the island, and that he who sold and he who bought the 
forbidden article should be punished by a fine. With remarkable 


justice, a certain period was allowed for stock in hand to be sold, 
before the law came into effect. But when it did, a general search 
was made, in which even the houses of the missionaries were not 
exempted, and all the ava (as the natives call all ardent spirits) was 
poured on the ground. When one reflects on the effect of intem- 
perance on the aborigines of the two Americas, I think it will be 
acknowledged that every well-wisher of Tahiti owes no common 
debt of gratitude to the missionaries. As long as the little island of 
St. Helena remained under the government of the East India Com- 
pany, spirits, owing to the great injury they had produced, were 
not allowed to be imported; but wine was supplied from the Cape 
of Good Hope. It is rather a striking and not very gratifying 
fact, that in the same year that spirits were allowed to be sold in 
Helena, their use was banished from Tahiti by the free will of the 

After breakfast we proceeded on our journey. As my object was 
merely to see a litde of the interior scenery, we returned by another 
track, which descended into the main valley lower down. For some 
distance we wound, by a most intricate path, along the side of the 
mountain which formed the valley. In the less precipitous parts we 
passed through extensive groves of the wild banana. The Tahitians, 
with their naked, tattooed bodies, their heads ornamented with 
flowers, and seen in the dark shade of these groves, would have 
formed a fine picture of man inhabiting some primeval land. In our 
descent we followed the line of ridges; these were exceedingly nar- 
row, and for considerable lengths steep as a ladder; but all clothed 
with vegetation. The extreme care necessary in poising each step 
rendered the walk fatiguing. I did not cease to wonder at these